An internship is an opportunity offered by an employer to potential employees, called interns, to work for a limited period of time. Interns are usually university students, or fresh graduates still seeking employment, internship mostly last for a limited period of time normally between two to three months depending on the organization and also on the type of intern.

Internship is a valuable part of career development and its becoming a necessity for a progressive career development. Many experts agree that internships largely begun from the professional apprenticeships that originated with the trade guilds of Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries. Master craftsmen and tradesmen took in young learners and gave tasks to build on their skills. Apprentices served one master for most of their teen years and later they could graduate to next level and even start earning better wages. Often they chose to continue with the same masters.

The 1911 book Labor and Apprenticeship, by Reginald Bray, includes a section that discusses the main objectives of the apprenticeship system: supervision, training and filling job openings. Originally the term “apprenticeship” was employed to signify not merely the practical training in the mysteries of a trade, but also that wider training of character and intelligence on which depends the real efficiency of the craftsman. Apprenticeship was regarded as a preparation for life, and not only as a preparation for the career. It sounds a lot like today’s internships, but there are key differences.

Internships offer students a chance for practical experience in the industry relating to their field of study, this experience is valuable to students as a means of allowing them to experience how their studies are practically applied. The work experience for the intern can be a highly attractive point to future potential employers as this will go into the interns resume.Most internship are arranged by the academic institutions as a prerequisite for completing the engineering programs but a times some students and newly graduates may directly seek internship positions on their own as an addition to the university mandatory internship program. Universities normally have dedicated coordinators for internships whose role include building formal partnerships with industry to secure internship opportunities for their students. It’s however very common in Kenya to find several engineering students seeking internship opportunities independently which could signify the existing gap on internship opportunities.

There is another form of internshipbut less common locally called aresearch internship which is usually undertaken by post graduate students or students that are mainly in their last year of academic study. For a research internship a student will undertake research for a particular company. The company may have something that they feel they need to innovate, improve or new product to develop, university students are invited under such research internship program, this program also allows the students to propose a topic to the company on which to research. This is a great opportunity that can be enhanced here in Kenya especially by SMEs who may not have sufficient resources for innovation ventures and R&D, this enables SMEs access university resources that can create new opportunities for their company.

In Kenya there have been some very successful internship arrangements, some include those with MOUs between industry and universities directly, others which involves several partners and others coordinated by an agency such as the one of  ICT Authority in partnership with Huawei Technologies  which offers internship opportunities to engineering students, its named “Telecom Seeds for The Future” whichaims to increase employability of university engineering students by extending training and internship opportunities to them and subsequent consideration for employment.

Others include those  organise by individual organizations in the various sectors of industry and can be seen in their websites,examples include by organizations such as Total Kenya, Safaricom  among others who have  build partnerships with institutions of higher learning to address their specific resource challenges. Other organizations have set up internship programs as a corporate social responsibility to bridge and harmonizing the educational curriculum with industrial expectations.

A recent approach under the presidential Digital talent program is a new and vibrant approach of addressing a sectors talent challenges by enhancing the internship arrangement, the government in partnership with the private sector in ICT industry consisting of both globally leading brands and successful local companies developed a sector specific internship curriculum. The creation of the Presidential Digital Talent Programme  whose curriculum aim at enhancing service delivery to citizens through effective and efficient use of information communication technologies (ICT) has set a pace that need to be replicated in other sectors. It addresses the ICT sector talents issues and creates more value for both the industry and the interns. The uniqueness of the approach is in bringing both the government and a whole sector to set up a well thought up program, the internship gives interns an opportunity to have an experience in both private sector and government.

Organizations needs to actively embrace acceptance of interns and internship programs as its offers huge benefits, it provides a link to future workforce bybuilding a long term pipeline for future employees. Many organisation occasionally need temporary resource, this often occur in companies involved in projects andinterns can play a key role of taking the additional temporary increase of business requirements. Internship is also a good way of building an organisation brand and attracting high capability talent as interns can always be the organizations ambassadors.

Interns have been known to bring new fresh perspective to the organisation and some have brought new products, solutions or innovations.Innovations or improvement in organizations processes can bring significant savings and efficiency and for this reason SMEs in their growth journey with limited human and financial resources for research can engage interns to innovate and address their current challenges. Organization currently with projects in new developing areas in infrastructure development such as green and smart solutions can make significant contributions by engaging more interns so as to build a larger potential pool of future professionals. 

Internship will continue to play a key role in training and development of future professionals and for this reason the engineering professional institutions, industry and academia need to continue to innovate and establish an ICT platforms that can improve the linking of interns and internship positions. The same platform,which must adapt to current social networking applications, should also be used to enhance training and interactions of engineering professionals.

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