THE Higher Education Ministry makes it compulsory for final-year undergraduates pursuing certain programmes to go for practical training. The aim is to expose students to the workplace before they embark on their careers.
Internship acts as an exchange of service (cheap or free labour) for experience between a student and an organisation.
Internships, with or without remuneration, are rewarding to students. Other than experience, internships help them to gain employment with the companies they served or provide a foot in the door to occupations that otherwise may be tough to get into without contacts.
From both an employer's and employee's perspective, it is beneficial to offer practical training only when a position leads to full-time employment.
Consequently, as new employees, the fresh graduates require little or no training.
To many firms, the ministry's decree is very much welcome during an economic crisis.
The competitive job market enables companies to make use of underpaid or unpaid interns.
There is no rule stating that interns must be remunerated.
The chance to enlist interns has been abused by some companies.
If interns are performing jobs -- regardless of whether or not they are menial -- that would otherwise go to full-time staff, there must be a law that stipulates payment.
There is a need to differentiate between internships that last a certain period, for example a semester, when training is structured.
Certain degree courses require students to undergo internships before they pursue postgraduate studies.
It is heartening to note that many companies are improving their internship programmes.
Some positions are transparently advertised as internships and a route to full-time jobs. There is a focus on training. Many pay interns a stipend and assign mentors.
Well-run internships benefit everyone. The college supervisor identifies students and suitable environments.
If there is abuse of the system, the supervisor intervenes and advocates on the students' behalf.
ARZMI YAACOB New Straits Times Comment 18 November 2012