There is an underlying expectation that successfully completing training holds the promise of advancing to the next level. In other words, graduation into the next stage is to a greater extent made certain by attaining what is demanded by the market. A graduate who exits the National Internship Program likewise carries that expectation.
However, Melissa Godwaldt, World University Service of Canada (WUSC)’s Organizational Development Manager, warns that contrary to apprenticeship, internship does not promise employment after completion.
“It worries me when I hear the expectations of some participants with regards to internship. They make it sound more like an apprenticeship, where there is a promise of employment post-placement,” she said.
Godwaldt stresses that the best way to deal with internship in when everyone understands the expectations of the program, with each party owning up to responsibilities within the relationship.
“Apprenticeships are a great idea for certain industries, but they require a different set of expectations and outcomes. Therefore consultation and communication are paramount. Also, a bit of patience will be helpful while we wait for enterprise to grow and increase opportunities for all the great talent we have coming out of our universities and colleges,” added Melissa. ┬á
WUSC partnered with the National Internship Program to assist with placement of interns in national and district NGOs. As part of efforts aimed at creating minimum standard practices for intern placement, the internship program organized a consultative workshop with the private sector. WUSC is therefore tasked with drafting an accompanying set of tools to assess placements as well as improving the current set of monitoring tools.
The National Internship Program was engineered six years ago as a response to concerns raised by the private sector that there was a skills mismatch as Botswana’s graduates were failing to meet its needs. The program would therefore present opportunities for graduates to accessing workplace learning. According to Boitshepo Bolele, Director of the National Internship Program, 700 private companies are actively participating in the [program by absorbing interns, outside of the uptake by government departments, parastatals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Assuming that the Internship Program is indeed producing industry ready graduates, the question arises as to “what next?” particularly because of the dire paucity of jobs in the market. Job creation remains a mirage for Botswana, and the real impact of the internship program is thwarted by the lack of graduation into gainful employment.
Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, Kgopotso Ramoroka has revealed that about P92 million is spent on the internship program every year. The heavy investment in the program becomes a cause for concern if its rippling effect is handicapped by the unavailability of productive opportunities, which in this regard renders it an ineffective program. Ramoroka further revealed that since its inception in 2008 the internship program has placed more than 10 000 interns in various organizations. He said that as of January 2015, the program boasted of 4912 active interns absorbed in the labour market with 5764 interns awaiting placement. Out of 5934, only 1340 secured permanent employment, putting the figure of gainful employment from internship at less than a quarter of the total 5934. This small number attests to the lack of jobs to absorb interns following exit from the internship program. While, as stated by Godwaldt, internship does not promise employment, it should however not serve as an excuse for the inability of interns to secure permanent employment. The lack of jobs is the reason interns are unable to graduate into employment.
How best can the internship program respond to the job scarcity predicament? Godwaldt offers the following advice: “I think exploring new sectors such as education sector (having interns as Teaching Assistants to help teach or tutor students in their professional fields) could be entertained. This would allow new graduates to teach what they learned in university to a younger audience – helping to reinforce their learning, while waiting for a job where they’ll get to put their education into practice. We need to be creative and highly consultative with all perspectives to generate new ideas and opportunities.”