Summative Perspective on the Discussions Regarding Skills Development, Graduate and Internships Programs
By Roderick Lim Banda

In the first 6 months of our CIO breakfast conversations of 2008, we discussed the gaps in skills development and considered graduate and internship programs.

Graduates are expected to walk straight into a job with their tertiary qualification. While this is the case for many graduates, most find it increasingly difficult to enter the job market. Graduate programs and internships can help students and graduates prepare for entry into the job market.

Differences in Academic and Industry Perspectives

We realized that there were differences in the academic and industry perspectives pertaining to internships and expectations. The table below highlights the areas where these gaps exist.

  Student Internship and Tertiary Program Graduate Internship and Industry Recruitment
What are the goals and objectives and the measures for success? The student, learning experience and the academic performance are the key outcomes. Recruitment, employment and value gained by the enterprise are the measures of success.
How should interns be remunerated? Remuneration can become a “perverse incentive”. Students may be focused on earning money than on learning and curriculum options. There is a need to have a more standardized remuneration or allowance. There is a common view that expenses such as transportation should be covered and that an allowance is provided.
How long should the internship period be? May include holiday periods but usually a term or semester of work (3-6 months). Ideally 1-2 years to enable companies to achieve a return on investment and for interns to acquire skills.
What is the profile of desired individual? Well rounded person with strong academic performance – measured learning experience and general work place readiness. Individual’s technical skills are important but attitude and personality must match the company’s specific desired human capital values – e.g. leadership, loyalty, communication.
What is the expectation in terms of skills? Assumption that skills can be acquired. Knowledge oriented focusing on the capacity of the individual to learn rather than on specific technical skills or ability. Individual is expected to have been taught, at university, some industry related skills and should have technical capabilities (e.g. software programming) and domain knowledge.
How should universities play a role in recruitment process? Not seen as a primary or academic function of the university although there are organizational structures to support this. Students are not well profiled. Universities not seen to market enough. Universities often are unaware or do not respond to tenders/requests. Some universities charge for access to students as part of a marketing and fund raising function.
What can companies do to improve their internship programs? Interns must be engaged in real work. Employers to be compassionate and extend opportunities. Challenge to “adopt” students like concerned parents. Internship Programs take effort but can work. Requires individuals committed to mentorship and coaching. Anticipate churn and plan to retain for 1-2 years.

Alignment to Government Initiatives

Government skills development programs such as ASGISA, has set targets for industry role players including increasing the number of certifications. Graduate qualifications with certification is the trend for ICT student development and graduate recruitment. Industry technology providers and tertiary institutions need to partner in order to grow the number of graduates with industry related skills and certification. However, this is not the primary function of universities and professionals in the private sector as well as companies need to get involved.

Key Skills in the Region

In the Western Cape province, there are specific areas of focus for the development of ICT skills, including:

  • Individuals with both business and technical aptitude, knowledge and skills
  • High demands in call centre and technical support operations
  • Lack in IT management, project management, implementation and service delivery support
  • IT sales and marketing
  • Certified skills (e.g. SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Open Source)

Universities in the region also need to work closely with employers to ensure that there is awareness of the areas of demand and how opportunities can be leveraged.