OPINIONPeople Daily

Don’t use internships to exploit college graduates

In the recent weeks, the media have been awash with job ads from government agencies and quasi-governmental agencies. Normally this would be welcome news to all the graduates pounding the pavement looking for jobs, except that these are just internships.

Controversial internships at that. The Central Organisation of Trade Union’s (Cotu) secretary general Francis Atwoli has been quoted in the press saying that it is “unacceptable and cruel to the graduates” to not list the terms and conditions of employment for the internships.

According to him, the government might be introducing short-term contract work through the backdoor. If this is true, I think it is the height of callousness to give a loaf of bread to a starving man, only to grab it back again, and throw it away before even the first morsel has been chewed. Let’s look at your average graduate straight from college.

Both Wafula and Nafula may be packing a B.Com, but they also have a lot of baggage. The median age of first birth in Kenya for a woman is about 20 years. Obviously the median age of first birth for educated women is higher. Paltry wages Assuming both Wafula and Nafula started nursery school at five, and didn’t repeat any classes, they should be about 22.

So by the time, these graduates leave the university, they have one or two additional mouths to feed. What they, therefore, need is a job; a salary that can help them start building a foundation for their young family, not the paltry wages an internship provides.

If this policy is targeting fresh graduates, it will fail. Yesterday’s People Daily carried an ad from the Lake Victoria North Water Services Board looking for interns in a variety of positions to work for three months. So are you telling me after three months, you expect them to get back on the road to tarmac? Don’t get me wrong.

I love internships, I think they add a lot of value. They bridge the gap between classroom learning, and real world experience. They are a good place to get your feet wet, before landing a permanent position.

Companies can also benefit from internships, because they get trained employees. An internship serves as an “extended interview session” during which they can see if an employee is fit for them. However, these internships are best offered to those still in college. I have had two internships myself one as an undergraduate, and the other as a postgraduate student.

I value the experiences that I gleaned from them. Yes, internships are great. But please, let’s not use them as excuse to exploit our graduates. Unless the graduates mess their internships badly, I see no reason why there should not be a full-time employment waiting when they have completed their apprenticeship programme. —The writer is a Management Fellow at the City of Wichita, USA —@janeksunga

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