Interns get close look at the real world

DUBAI - There's no doubt that internships play an important role in education and, increasingly, top-notch universities in the UAE require and encourage that students complete an internship before they graduate.

By Mubashra Siddiqui

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Published: Fri 9 Jul 2004, 10:57 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:46 PM

Kenton Swift, a professor of accounting at the College of Business Sciences at the Zayed University, said, "Internships are a requirement for every undergraduate student. The university actually sets up internships for all its students. But students can express an interest in a particular business or other organisation, and the university will do its best to meet this request."

One of the reasons internships are given such importance is that they allow students to get a feel of the "real world" or the "working world" as it is. In many cases, students are given the opportunity to apply for internships either through their universities or on their own.

Professor Swift asserted that internships must be a requirement and stated that they ensure "that every student has first-hand exposure to the type of environment they will be working in after graduation."

Ahmed Mokhtar, assistant professor of architecture at the American University of Sharjah (AUS), echoed Professor Swift's sentiments and said, "Students look at their curriculum differently when they are faced with real life practices". He also stressed that search for internships leads to developing job-hunting skills in students.

Students visiting career advisers also find that they insist on internships. Ross Kirkham, a career adviser at Dubai Men's College (HCT), said, "The experience is vital in raising the students' awareness of what is happening in the industry they hope to participate in, and of business and work ethics in government and private sectors."

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has also lauded all efforts to encourage internships and has established Tanmia (The National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority) to ensure that UAE nationals receive appropriate training allowing them to enter the job market effectively. The Maharat programme launched by Tanmia offers training courses some of which involve practical experience programmes in various organisations.

However, while no one denies that internships are important and no doubt helpful, some feel that it must not become a requirement. Lawrence Woods, associate professor of international studies and political sciences at AUS, said internships should become a requisite depending on the field of study.

"In those fields that are learning-oriented as opposed to job-oriented, greater benefit may be found in courses offering focused learning opportunities, rather than in internships that are not very applicable to the field of study. Making yet another course mandatory is also problematic if we are trying to be responsive to student needs and desires in a liberal arts context," Dr Woods stated.

Another argument against making internships a requirement is that they don't last long. One can't help but question if students would learn in a short period of time like a month or six weeks. Dr Mokhtar agreed that students can only get "a flavour" of what real life practices are but contested the argument by stating "even four or five years of education are not enough learning. It is only a start".

Pay policies are also a debatable area when it comes to making internships a requirement. Universities generally ask that students work without getting paid. On the other hand, they often count internships as a regular course, thus requiring students to pay for them.

Janine Rentz Eltal, career services manager at the American University of Dubai where making internships a requirement is still under discussion, said, "We require that students not get paid to ensure that students choose internships on the basis of appropriateness of experience and not pay."

Natasha Qazi, a finance and accounting senior at AUS, while acknowledging that it was acceptable for organisations not to offer any pay argued, "It doesn't make sense to pay the university. A nominal feel for supervision is acceptable, but why should I have to pay the fees of an entire course?"

While there are many debatable issues when it comes to making internships a requirement, it is obvious that students do benefit from them. Additionally, organisations also witness advantages in offering internships. Savita Bonamis, human resources assistant at KPMG, stated: "The main benefit we receive from offering internships is that it becomes easier for us to recruit new employees."

Trevor DeSousa echoed Bonamis's sentiments. The human resources manager at Emitac Ltd stated: "To a large extent, offering such internships allows us to adequately assess potential sources of recruitment."

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