Nailab CEO, Sam Gichuru, sparked a conversation about two weeks ago about internships in Kenya. In a Twitter thread that he shared, he urged Kenyan youth to take up unpaid internships. He talked about a former intern of his who now has his own company, Herdy Co and said, “The founder of Hardy Co. was my unpaid intern… If he had asked for pay, I wouldn’t have given him a chance…” This caused a lot of uproar on Twitter with people chiming in on the conversation with their experiences.
Sam Gichuru also went on to advice the youth on how to make unpaid internships work by saying the youth should take up loans, start side businesses and ask for support from their guardians. There are those who agreed with him but a majority were not taken by his ideas. He has since deleted the thread. This is not the first time Kenyans have gone on Twitter to talk about internships. In 2017, the hashtag #InternsNotBeastsofBurden had everyone talking about the same issue.
As a Kenyan undergraduate student, it is mandatory to take part in an industrial attachment. An industrial attachment is where a student works for a company, usually for a minimum period of eight weeks, with the aim of getting real-life experiences of the course one is pursuing. A lecturer or tutor from their institution will usually come to monitor the student and assess their progress. For most institutions, this is expected to take place during the third year of study when the students are on holiday. However, some institutions prefer that students undertake their attachment after completing their studies as they await graduation.
Why internships matter
In this case, because the intention is to learn about job specifics and to get first time experience, an organization might not be entitled to pay the student. However, internships are an entirely different matter. Internships are usually run by organizations with the aim of not only giving students a chance to get on-ground experiences but to eventually groom them for the job. Most internships run for three to six months. After this period, the organization is expected to hire the candidate or get another one.
The reason as to why it is important to offer a stipend to interns is because by now, they have completed their university studies or are just awaiting graduation. This means that they are most likely not under their guardians care. Most internship openings also require that candidates have prior experience which means that they will bring some sort of value to the company. Therefore, a stipend that caters for travel expenses or food goes a long way because there is a contribution from the candidates.
Pursue one only
It becomes taxing to students to have them pursue both. After attachment, most students usually head back to their institutions which means that employers by that time, will have found other suitable candidates to replace them. An ideal situation would see undergraduate students undertake paid internships/ attachments immediately after completing university. This would allow them to learn as much as possible on the job and at the same time, prepare them to take up the job.
This is the best way to bridge gaps between corporates and undergraduate students whom many have been complaining aren’t skilled enough. If companies do not have a plan on absorbing either the attaches or interns, it means that despite the high-level training they get, it becomes a challenge to get a job and company resources will also have been wasted.
However, the Kenyan law is still quite unclear on whether interns should be paid but Clause 2.9 under Intern Entitlements reads, “interns are entitled to sick leave, annual leave, compassionate leave, stipend, and sustenance allowance when out of a station at a rate to be determined by the commission.”
Undergraduate students should, therefore, be allowed to pursue internships which is to cover for the academic requirement as well as prepare them for the job. Companies should also be encouraged to offer stipends in order to foster growth and provide the youth with motivation.