For as long as I can remember, there have been a lot of complaints from employers that the caliber of graduates being churned out of the universities and polytechnics are not really up to scratch. Initially, nobody could tell specifically what was not right about the school leavers. It started off with whingeingly such as “Why does he wait for me to tell him everything before he implements them, he needs to show more initiative”; “He cannot express himself well – he doesn’t have a good command of the English language.” “He got
a first class but he does not know the first thing about attention to detail”. “This man
is not a team player; he seems to have trouble getting on with everybody” …. The list could go on and on. I picked the brain of a few people in industry regarding how we could rectify this…
Mrs. Naana Osae Omaboe’s thoughts: Most times the unfortunate impression is created that these two, – academia and industry, must necessarily be mutually exclusive of each other, but nothing can be further from the truth. Both thrive on each other, both sustain each other, and when properly managed, can be a sheer delight to behold at work. Raw academics, without direction, and for the seemingly pointless sake of acquiring tons of ’theoretical nothings’ just for its sake, would be a sad waste indeed of our precious human resource! Same goes for an Industrial sector bereft of knowledgeable, sharp-minded, qualified and well-trained academics! What a sad commentary that would be! Our country urgently needs a constructive merger of both worlds. This current situation where both worlds eye each other with large doses of unhealthy suspicion must cease, if we’re ever
to leap forward as a nation! Input from
Dr. Clarence Clottey MB ChB, MPH, FGCP, CCFP : Academics are the theoretical foundation
and the evaluative base on which industry grows, and establishes an effective impact on society. Academics furnish the skill sets and innovation that can be harnessed to drive industry and maximize its potential. The various forms of industry and their inner workings and attributes, on the other hand, provide a rich medium for academic enquiry, research and development.
A Personal Perspective of Paul Ankrah : I believe that there is a need for proper understanding , communication and alignment of the needs and expectations of all stakeholders – employers, students, parents, tertiary institutions and government institutions. On a recent engagement with students from one of our universities, it became clear that many students do not know what corporate Ghana is looking for; and as such many are ill-prepared to properly engage employers when job opportunities emerge. The
academic curriculum does not adequately prepare them for the corporate world. Students invariably acquire good core competencies based on their elds or areas of study but are bereft of the softer skills required to engage a potential employer. As a result, a gap between taught academic curricula and the expectations of corporate Ghana has emerged. This would suggest that there is an opportunity for industry to collaborate with our tertiary institutions to identify and bridge this gap and help to develop the leaders of tomorrow. However a number of things need to happen first:
1. Employers must conduct an internal evaluation of their recruitment strategies to see how, when and where graduates or interns can feature in their overall growth and development plans. This process may require modifications to existing strategies and internal processes and requires careful thought and planning to identify risks and options.
2. Once defined, employers should then identify and communicate their graduate/internship policies through various media and communication platforms to graduates and tertiary institutions. This should include the type of projects graduates are likely to work on, the types of preferred disciplines, annual graduate or intern intake, corporate expectations, mentorship programmes explaining how the graduate or intern will be directed and supported, information on what the graduate is likely to experience, and what the likely benefits will be etc. An indication of some token compensation or allowance is also
encouraged wherever possible. This process may require frequent collaboration and monitoring to ensure that proper and effective alignment, collaboration and communication is achieved between employers and educational institutions.
3. Employers should also aim to use internships as a possible step to providing permanent employment and must therefore build this into their overall recruitment strategies. This will have an impact on the selection criteria and qualities required from interns or young graduates.
4. Graduates on the other hand must quickly study, understand and respect the requirements of the corporate world – time management, discipline, attitude to work,
ethics, professional conduct, dress codes, inter-personal relationships, hierarchy and culture of the organization, confidentiality issues etc.
5. Graduates must also find innovative ways of differentiating themselves in what is a very
small and competitive employment market. This should include investing in training and development schemes that provide the graduate with much-needed industry practicing skills that can be communicated at interview stage and hopefully leveraged in the organisation through internships and job placements.
6. Graduates should recognize that an opportunity given on the basis of internship places a cost on the rm in developing the learning experience of the graduate or intern. The shorter the learning curve the more value you add to an organisation because the employer does not have to incur too much cost to train and develop the graduate to a required level in the organisation.
7. Graduates must be exible enough to gain work experience wherever it comes
from because it teaches you things in life that the classroom cannot teach you. Vacation internships or part-time jobs are very good preparation grounds for the young graduate. Part of the problem we face stems from the manner in which our culture rightly or wrongly places unusually high premiums on certain categories of jobs and industries – banking, law, finance, engineering, medical, accounting etc. to the detriment and lower appreciation of others. Therefore, many graduates are reluctant to take on lesser-known roles in
various sectors or parts of the country.
Thoughts from Mr. Richard Kyereboah: The issue of the gap between the academia and industry is a huge challenge for developing world and poses a threat to the development of
developing countries. Knowledge, conceptual view and skills acquired at school by young graduates must connect with industry demands or requirements to make learning meaningful and useful to the individual, industry as well as the nation. Corporate
bodies do not ‑nd products of schools and universities readily relevant.
The problem needs to be tackled from a holistic perspective. The stakeholders involved – governments, educational institutions and industry must work together to fashion out relevant and integrated academic and industry educational policy with a disciplined
execution strategy to ensure effective implementation. There will be the need to back such an integrated policy with a national educational policy to give it statutory support and authority to ensure that educational strategies are properly designed and coordinated for productive and relevant learning by all.
Structured industry experiences that form an integral part of educational curriculum may probably be the most appropriate method of bridging the gap between the academia and the industry environments. Industry partners must be encouraged to provide hands-on opportunities for students to experience work life situations with the testing of theories and concepts learnt at school.
Governments must provide incentives by way of tax relieves for industrial establishments that would be partners to the educational institutions. The tax relief will make up for the cost that may be incurred in exposing the students.
Social responsibility of institutions must be extended to cover industrial exposure of students by such corporate bodies. Integrate serious and structured internship system in their curriculum and vigorously and consistently implement it in partnership with industry as a requirement for graduation. Renewal of accreditation of educational institutions – private or public must be based on the quality and regular internship programs offered to students.
Besides, as in the case of compulsory national service scheme in Ghana, organizations must be made to structure their annual work schedules to accommodate periodic and supervised internship programs to feed into the current continuous assessment program applied by educational institutions for students.
Mrs. Ellen M. Hagan (Chief Executive of L’AINE Services Ltd.):
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE WAY FORWARD
Acknowledging the need for internship programmes as an effective way of bridging
this gap seems to be the immediate solution: Interns should be prepared and should try to do this without monetary gain and employers should try and reward them with some allowance to let them feel like employees.
Apart from being a learning exercise, it is a SOLUTION to our national problem of
bridging the academic and industrial gap.
A student seeking an internship is looking for an opportunity to apply ideas learned on
campus to real situations. Employers are therefore supposed to provide opportunities for the student to apply learning in new ways.
Many companies are dropping the ball on this and failing to put the necessary effort into providing quality internship programs because there are too many people looking for work for even less pay than what interns want. Most employers See it as “Doing interns a favour” and some interns have a bad attitude to work and training. It takes a lot of work and effort to have internship programmes organized effectively. Employers should note they might as well do it properly or not at all…. We should not expect to take in interns and leave them to their own devices, sent on the occasional errand, and treated as interruptions and people who are “in the way” of busy, serious people. I hope this article challenges us to put in our bit through proper internship programmes to help our undergraduates become more productive in the World of Work.
Implementing a successful Internship Program – CHECKLIST
An Internship policy with the following clearly defined
- Projects / Tasks to be completed.
Establish qualifying criteria
- Minimum GPA/ Level. E.g. 2nd year, BSc Admin.
- Application process.
- Selection criteria and process.
- Identify supervisor within department .
- Weekly / half monthly review.
- Regular feedback to intern.
- Assessment /Evaluation at the end of the program.
- Objective achieved.
- The job description and expected duties are clearly laid out.
- An Orientation, either formal or informal.
- Get the intern a mentor.
- Ensure the intern is stretched to perform at his or her full potential. Ensure intern is not overwhelmed.
- Leadership is critical.
- Student Assessment form completed