Why interns need to learn on the job
For too long, internships have been viewed as a bad relationship with formal degrees, even though employers hire from both qualifications. Remembering the megaproject explosion
in the Gulf, and the need for a technically skilled workforce, this is a good time to consider how a channel of talented apprentices can help achieve this ambitious national goal.
The private sector has an important role to play here by advising vocational technical institutions on the type of workforce they need, to avoid mismatches between market and graduates, as has been the case for years in some Gulf countries. The international conference organized by the Saudi Ministry of Education from May 8 to 11 discussed, among other things, addressing the challenges of the epidemic, curriculum and digital innovation. However, even though interns receive a lot of attention around the world, they are still somewhat neglected in the Gulf.
Internships combine the basic theoretical knowledge received from formal classes and on-the-job training with companies, unlike students who often do not work on practical courses. This type of program has traditionally been associated with engineering, but has launched into the financial sector with training offered in data analysis and software engineering.
For those advocating equal opportunities for youth, interns tend to come from more diverse backgrounds than recent graduates. This type of training attracts female entrants to male-dominated sectors around the world. In the Gulf, graduates of women’s vocational training institutions have taken up jobs such as plumbing and electrical work. Women have also replaced some of the foreign workforce in the area, as some Gulf families feel more comfortable having female national interns do the work in their homes. The focus on expanding the Saudi travel and tourism sector will also open up internship opportunities for both sexes to work in this new market, along with formal graduates with language and marketing degrees.
It’s important to understand why people become apprentices, so training schemes are flexible enough to take this into account. Interns who have left school with few qualifications, use this program to build self-confidence and make a real impact on their careers. Others with existing qualifications use vocational programs to move to new areas. Even those who graduate with traditional degrees feel that obtaining a specialized on-the-job internship will help them enter a more competitive labor market.
In some European countries, notably Germany, there is a long tradition of favoring internships over formal degrees in order to produce a professionally skilled workforce. It is not surprising that the German vocational training model is a rigorous combination of formal teaching and job placement with companies ultimately offering graduates full-time employment upon graduation. This reduces dropout rates compared to traditional vocational programs that only provide classroom training, as is the case in most training institutions in the Gulf.
The biggest appeal of an internship is the opportunity to grow in a workplace environment and shape early career choices while building company relationships along the way. The satisfaction of applying what they have learned firsthand is priceless.
In the Gulf, it is critical that employers in the private and public sectors offer short-term internship opportunities as well as regular employment, as part of their social and corporate responsibilities.
• Dr. Mohamed Ramady is a former senior banker and Professor of Finance and Economics, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran.
Disclaimer: The views expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of Arab News