To pay or not to pay student Interns?

Employers want staff who are job-ready: people with skills and the discipline to get work moving at the on-set upon recruitment. When you give

Employers want staff who are job-ready: people with skills and the discipline to get work moving at the on-set upon recruitment. When you give someone a job, you want them to do it with minimal supervision.

To this end, Universities introduced the idea of Internship – where University students are attached to some companies for practical training. The internship is intended to empower graduates with essential hands-on skills.  Student Interns work for a minimum period of three months. This is supposed to be a transformational experience for the students where they get to understand what makes a great employee.

Ideally, if you are an engineer, you need to be placed in a work environment where you apply your engineering skills. If you are an accountant, you need to work as an Intern in the accounts department. Additionally, the employer must provide you with responsibilities that challenge you and prepares you for the actual work environment. Critical issues like report writing, timekeeping, project execution, leadership and taking responsibility must be tested.

On my first job, I was asked to submit a report by Monday at 8 am. Considering that I needed to report about the status of the business as of that same Monday, I had to be in the office by 5:30 am, extract the data from the system and then analyze it! It was a year later that my supervisor told me that I had passed my probation by delivering the Monday morning reports! Likewise, employers must challenge Student Interns with tasks beyond technical roles.

The question is: when students are attached to work at your company, should they be paid?

The question is: when students are attached to work at your company, should they be paid?

The argument for non-payment of Students on Internships is that it is done before graduation. This means students are still at University and therefore Internship is an extension of their learning for which they already paid University tuition fees. For this reason, some companies, especially in the private sector, require Universities to pay them to accept the Interns.

From a business point of view, any new hire has attendant risks of the learning curve (many work-related mistakes at the start), reputation, and intellectual property theft. Interns need to be exposed to the company, assigned resources like computers and a workstation. Many times, they may spoil the computer due to poor handling since they have never handled one! It is possible.

The question is who incurs the cost of repair or replacement, in case of no insurance or the loss due to negligence is an exclusion in the insurance cover?

What next?

The government must make laws and or regulations that provide an environment for the advancement of society. On the job training is critical. Any government institution that benefits from tax-payers money in terms of financing or tax exemptions, must be required to offer Internships to students. This happens.

However, the process is not streamlined.

Some parents use connections to get their children placed in government institutions for Internship opportunities at the expense of the better candidates. You see, human capital requires a fair play selection else you derail your best talent with the higher marginal return when employed to transform the country. How do some students get easy placement in government institutions and not others?

A regulation on Internship placement would solve this problem. Under the regulation, a criterion for placement is defined for example providing for regional, gender and special interest representation quotas for Interns in government per year. This would remove the bias as a result of influences. Some Interns expect payments and allowances from employers – this too would be streamlined.

My take?

Nothing beats practical training. A policy for Internship placement in Government institutions should be established – where every company must accept Interns every quarter as part of human capital development.

Nothing beats practical training. A policy for Internship placement in Government institutions should be established – where every company must accept Interns every quarter as part of human capital development. Click To TweetThe Interns should be paid transport and lunch refunds at a minimum. Otherwise, they work hard and should be paid adequate compensation to enable them to appreciate work.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.

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