Monday, 25 May 2015

[Today] Internships: A remedy for uncertainty

The Structured Internship Programme (SIP) offered by Nanyang Polytechnic (“NYP to offer structured internships to all its students”; May 16) sets a good precedent for the other polytechnics as well as the Institutes of Technical Education.
Simply doing well in academics is no longer adequate and such programmes are already established in the universities, providing undergraduates with opportunities to improve their career prospects.
Programmes such as these are particularly useful for those entering the workforce for the first time, and the orientation activities and work tasks will ease them into organisational processes and hierarchies. What stands out in the SIP is that students “will be matched with industry mentors as they undergo real-world training and embark on projects”.
Through my different attachments with companies, I have been blessed with mentors who are eager to not only share their insights, but also challenge interns to do much more. Such rigour is appreciated, and not necessarily present in the confines of a school.
More importantly in the long run, internships help students ascertain whether they might be suitable for a company or industry. Through months of immersion they get a glimpse at their possible roles and responsibilities, speak to colleagues who have amassed years of experience and expertise, and put into practice the know-how picked up in the classroom.
Even after three years of tertiary education, the future may remain hazy for some, and my internships during the holidays have been a good remedy to this uncertainty. For instance, working in a bank last year, even if it was for a short while, made me realise I was ill-suited to the finance sector.
Career guidance is crucial in the school and, in this vein, internships provide a link between academic courses and careers. Educators can help to shape perceptions, encouraging students to establish ambitions and aspirations on their own.
The SIP and its equivalent programmes are stepping stones. Ultimately, the onus is on students to make independent decisions. The notion of lifelong learning, which Education Minister Heng Swee Keat alluded to, is applicable too.
Just as undergraduates may have to source for their own internships, they will have to work for their own opportunities in the corporate world if they want to develop as individuals.