EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Internship policy needs an overhaul

There should be a model of inculcating the culture of work from an early age.

In Summary
  • Should be transformed to capture skills development from primary to secondary school and university.
  • A reflective education syllabus that helps students find solutions to problems is better than banking of knowledge

In recent days a question was put to the Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs CS on interns being absorbed in the public service. More than 3,100 graduate interns are to be given this opportunity. One wonders why only this number should be considered when statistics present themselves differently.

For instance, after the Education ministry released the 2019 secondary school results, local dailies highlighted the emerging challenge. More than 693,263 students sat their final secondary exam. But universities could only absorb 145,341 candidates who attained grade C+ and above. The question was what to do with the 500,000. TVETs could only absorb 500 candidates that year. Should internship target only university graduates then?

An internship is a temporary position with an emphasis on on-the-job training. The student trainee works in an organisation to gain experience to satisfy requirements for a qualification. It means that internship could start from the moment students are of age to harness their interests and skills.

A transformation of the delivery of education is called to question. The competency-based education policy paper argues for the purpose of education as playing a major role in the economic, social, political development of any country towards an improved quality of life.

With the pressing demand created by a growing youthful population, hungry for opportunities for economic success, the government is increasingly concerned about the employment of those who do not go to university. The internship policy should be transformed to capture skills development from primary to secondary school and university.

How do we transform the internship policy? Three things stand out. First, while it is good to absorb 3,100 interns in the civil service, there should be a model of inculcating the culture of work from an early age. A more reflective education syllabus that helps students find solutions to social problems around them is better than banking of knowledge.

There should be internship in leadership. Who are the role models Kenyan youth understudy? Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Chancellor of Exchequer, Gordon Brown, started as Labour interns in 1979 and grew through the ranks to the two top seats in government. George Osborne (Chancellor of the Exchequer) and David Cameroon (Prime Minister) also started out as interns in the Conservative party.

Paolo Freire introduced reflective education to help students move away from a knowledge banking model which makes students regurgitate same information they copied from their teacher during exams. Internship should incorporate creative thinking by helping students know principles of social justice, working for the common good and applying the subsidiarity principle in education delivery. Together we succeed, alone I fall. 

Secondly, internship should not be left to the government alone. The private sector should be part of this long-term policy change. The Covid-19 pandemic has wiped out jobs and worsened unemployment. However, if the policy had focused on job learning sponsored by private sector, then students would be at home doing assignments given by their would-be employers.

Kenya could borrow a leaf from the German dual-track vocational training programme, known as the VET. By 2018, around half a million apprentices (interns) in Germany were taking a skilled profession every year. At the same time, a company or public sector institution would host the apprentices where they gained practical knowledge and hands-on experience in every sector.

From this system you find quality graduates, innovative, and creative youth who fill the job gaps left by retirees. Germany has been rated among the top five countries in the world where new inventions help create jobs at all levels.

Lastly, there should be internship in leadership. Who are the role models Kenyan youth understudy? Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Chancellor of Exchequer, Gordon Brown, started as Labour interns in 1979 and grew through the ranks to the two top seats in government. George Osborne (Chancellor of the Exchequer) and David Cameroon (Prime Minister) also started out as interns in the Conservative party.

The civil service, private sector and NGOs can work hand in hand to give students an opportunity to gain experience not just to have employable skills but to also transform the lives of all Kenyans.