Unless students are guaranteed a job after graduation, they are unlikely to take interning seriously
By University Lecturer
| May 27th 2020
The thinking is that
work experience is all that separates many young people from jobs.
The Government has
set aside money for internships to give graduates work experience. Some
universities increasingly require their students to take internship before
graduation to get a taste of work and tone down the idealism of student life.
The thinking behind
internship is that work experience is all that separates many young men and
women from jobs. This can be contested. We have focused too much on the job
adverts in the newspapers, which mostly require work experience. In reality,
experience is necessary but not sufficient reason to secure a job.
Skills more than
experience will get you a job. Let me demonstrate: I got my first job offer in
Form 2. I had the skills the market needed. I gave the offer to a certain man
who got a job at Mumias Sugar Company. Is he still there? Ndibo, I think was
his name. Students with right skills get jobs before they graduate.
Wycliffe Nyakina of
Institute of Human Resource Management adds: “Attitude towards work is emerging
as the major cause of unemployment. Use of social media and betting have
diverted the attention of many young graduates from serious issues that
comprise work environment (ethics). Technology has made work easier, but killed
creativity necessary for work.”
Lots of young men
get any skills first, then hope the market will adjust to accommodate them. The
market is too big to adjust to individual needs.
example. Asians have been doing very well in the US job market. They acquire
the skills needed by the market, often science, technology, engineering and
mathematics (STEM) based. With the right skills, the world becomes your market.
Ever wondered why
most Kenyans abroad have jobs? And why joblessness seems to affect men more
sadly, students expect institutions to match their curriculum to the job
market. They rarely do. The most marketable courses are the most expensive to
mount or teach; for instance, engineering or medicine. They rarely attract lots
Private investors in
education prefer courses that need just a room and a lecturer. Public
institutions do the same.
With the population
of young men and women booming and the residue prestige of being a graduate
intact, they just admit them. They can worry about jobs after graduation. You
could also suggest to them that another degree would make them more marketable.
The Government can
take the risk of investing in science and technology, the reason most public
universities have courses in STEM.
The risk of making
internship compulsory is that it will become a formality — just take it to
graduate, not to get skills. Unless students are guaranteed a job after
graduation, they are unlikely to take it seriously.
They are also likely
to face hostility from current workers who see them as a threat to their jobs.
Remember they are young and energetic and, in whispers, some are beautiful.
Internships can also
lead to exploitation, with interns seen as cheap labour. It goes further. If
internships can lead to jobs, interns should actually pay for it. Some firms do
ask them to pay since the companies train them with their own resources.
Interns can also
derive value from brand association. Interning at a Fortune 500 firm would open
lots of job opportunities. This is no different from attending a top university
in the world.
also create an underground job market. If I know there is a future vacancy, why
not bring a relative as an intern and give him or her a head start once the job
is advertised? Can we decree that you can’t get a job where you interned?
Top universities do
not employ their graduates to stop “insider trading” but also to make their
graduates entrepreneurial, reduce inbreeding and increase diversity of faculty
— all for the benefit of the students.
Could we argue that
internships interfere with the labour market? Since interns are paid less than
the permanent workers, that could depress wages. Sounds funny, but why not hire
interns; they are cheaper and at times more productive because they are looking
for full-time jobs.
By demanding that
firms take in interns, we interfere with the laws of supply and demand. What of
graduates taking courses that are unlikely to get them jobs?
Why can’t we leave
the market to sort things out? Has the job market been so inefficient that we
need the visible hand of the Government to correct it? Can we publish a list of
the expected jobs in the next 10 years and the skills needed so that students
do not pursue courses randomly?
The US Bureau of
Labour Statistics does that. Check it out.
Let us address the
real problem. It is not lack of work experience that has led to joblessness. It
is lack of marketable skills and a simple fact; we are not creating jobs.
Chris Kirubi explained recently at a conference, creating jobs is easy. Create
demand for products and services. Those who make the products, distribute it,
add value or offer services get the jobs. The higher the demand, the more the
You can create more
jobs by focusing on the global market. Internet through e-commerce makes it
easy to reach a global market. Just ask Jack Ma.
Reaching into a
global market demands you to offer quality services and products. Ask Japanese,
Koreans and now Chinese how they got into the global markets and created
millions of jobs. That was the dream of East African Community, a bigger
market, more jobs.
even find it hard to sell products and services across counties, preferring
Jack Ma to Jack Maina.
Internship is a
short term solution; the long term solution is to grow the economy which is
much harder than decreeing that firms should take up interns.
After all, graduates
do not want internships; they want full time jobs. Ask them.
-The writer is a
Senior Lecturer at the University of Nairobi.
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