“There is too much of theory in our education system which isn’t helping students especially when they graduate; hence universities must redesign some of their courses to reflect the current needs of the industry and society and also take a second look at their mode of teaching”.
These were the thoughts of the Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at the Ashesi University College; Araba Botchway in an interview some two years ago. Her call to take a second look at our educational module as a nation resonates with the thoughts of many Ghanaians ranging from academics, policy makers, students and parents alike.
In response to such calls and demands, the educational sector has seen many reforms over the years to make graduates from our institutions of higher learning competitive in the global economy. The question on the minds of many people remains; have these reforms achieved their set objectives?
For many industry players, most graduates lack the requisite expertise to navigate their way through the world of work. The sad effect is, they end up being unemployed.
Francis Abban of Starr FM is quoted to have said in an interview that “most journalism students are attracted to the profession by the glamour associated with successful journalists. They want to be the voice on radio, yet they lack the necessary skill set useful in the newsroom”. It is for this widening gap that internships came to be a necessary part of our tertiary institutions.
For most universities, you are required to do a compulsory internship or attachment with an institution which has a bearing on your field of study. The rationale is to equip students with a hands-on training in line with their future career. But how has this whole internship thing played out for the intended beneficiaries?
Most a time, some industry players and relevant personalities in our society by virtue of campus clubs and other student leadership do pay visits to some universities to mentor and inspire students to give off their best and excel in academia. One phrase that is consistent with these mentors and key industry players is the advice that students take up volunteering and internship opportunities. This attitude, they believe would fast track the learning process and give them employable skills to enhance their abilities for the industry they desire to work.
In an interaction with some students about internships, they complain bitterly about how they struggle to get a place to intern.
Admittedly, this complaint is true to an extent. The other half of the argument unknown to these students is, the financial strength and resources of these companies which inadvertently inhibits their abilities to recruit large numbers.
For most interns, the first few weeks are fun and exciting until they become used to the terrain of activities and become fed up with the prominent faces they once wished to see.
Knowing the consistency of this behavior by some interns, Head of Human Resources at Media General, Ama Lawson charged newly recruited interns to be serious with their work.
“This is a developmental process for you. It requires a lot of commitment from you and make good use of the opportunity given you”, she added, on the sidelines of an orientation to usher in the interns.
She further admonished them to comply with the rules of conduct as she concludes.
Investigative Journalist at Multimedia, Manasseh Azuri, was discovered by GTV during his internship days when he illustrated due diligence and exceptional talent. There are others who have had their breakthrough in life due to internship opportunities they sought. Why then are students today not making the most of what lies within their reach?
That brings me to the substantive matter: what really is an internship? Is it a hands-on training opportunity in one’s field of study to bridge the gap between theory and industry or it is a prison sentence from our schools; an opportunity for staff of a company to send interns on errands?
With this question, there arise two categories of interns.
Some interns are of the notion that internship is just one of those prerequisites for a university degree; with this in mind, they don’t make efforts to take initiatives to propel themselves to the next level. They resort to doing assignments and projects handed them by superiors and if no task is assigned, they just stagnate and while away precious time. This category of interns is those who feel safe in their comfort zones. Though they possess potential beyond their imagination, they skew their mindset to just what lies in front of them and nothing else.
For them internship is nothing more than a prison sentence; they are there to serve their time patiently awaiting the day they shall be granted amnesty.
Where the internship is a university requirement, it inadvertently limits the opportunities of students who hustle during vacation to fend for themselves. Settling on an internship, especially a non-paying one, will definitely come to them at a huge cost – the kind we call opportunity cost. It’s fair to ask what alternatives are available for students in this category so that they can fulfil their survival needs and academic requirements. But does anyone care about how they juggle between the two?
The second category of interns are the outgoing ones: those who seem to have a clear understanding of what they wish to achieve with their internship.
They dare to take initiative; most often than not, they end up with eggs in their faces, but they do not relent when things fail to turn up as expected. They do not relax on their oars when they succeed either. They set higher goals to fulfill
It is therefore not surprising that some interns get to do their national service and get employed after their service.
Perhaps it’s high time the first category of interns took a cue from their counterparts. Like most key industry players have said, there are only 10 slots available for a 100 people out there. Your ability to stand out with key set of employable skills is your only assurance of being employed. Like Cal Newport puts it:” be so good they can’t ignore you”. Some people finish school and go searching for nonexistent jobs, others get to pick and choose who employs them even before graduation.
Which category syncs with you? The ball lies in your court.
By Ferdinard Tiekon| 3news.com | Ghana
The writer is a student journalist at the Ghana Institute of Journalism and an intern with Media General.