Contribution of Internship to Student Development

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Dr. Michael Aamodt, an Industrial-Organizational psychologist, has defined internship as “a situation in which a student works for an organization, either for a pay or as a volunteer, to receive practical work experience.” An internship experience can help students make the connection between their academic studies and the world of business (Hergert, 2009).

As closely related to other terms such as apprenticeship, on-the-job training, practicum, etc., internship provides an importance to student’s professional growth and development as it pertains to the application and acquisition of skills and knowledge involving other employees based on a certain field/expertise. In return, an organization benefits from the output of intern’s performance which has significant contribution on its daily needs and its operational objectives/goals.

Students under internship program are commonly required by their respective college or university to accomplish their training for a certain number of hours which sums up to a month or more. Trainees are typically expected to acquire new skills, apply concepts and ideas they have learned from school as well as exhibit and develop proper workplace etiquette and behavior (e.g., professionalism) under a supervision of an employee. In one of the established college institutions in the Philippines, Asia Pacific College (APC), students are required to complete their internship for around six (6) months that is equivalent to two (2) trimesters.

Under this program, interns should report in their company full-time during weekdays for at least eight (8) hours. Prior the placement of students among its industry partners, the school is exerting their efforts in terms of providing good quality education and services in line with its objectives to mold the students into industry-ready professionals. Interns are also being eyed to work on the expected outcomes of the program such as project/task accomplishment, proper workplace behavior development and absorption.

Internship program has various impact on student’s development. In a previous study of Tse (2010), it was claimed that internship gives students real-world experience and allows them to see how the theories they learned are applied. In a previous study of Martin and Wilkerson (2006), accounting interns enrolled in Wake Forest University agreed that their training provided them with solidified understanding of prior academic work, beneficial for subsequent academic work, provided them with new insights into courses and improved understanding of concepts. Rothman’s (2007) qualitative study on 345 business interns at a university in California emphasized that the clarity of tasks, clear communication and expectation around challenging assignments could improve students’ internship experience

It was also revealed in her study that internships are considered as previews of full-time work experiences with the job, industry or employer. Academic programs aim to position internship as the culminating experience of a degree plan to have students apply what they have learned and and help transition them into the next stage of their career (Odio, Sagas & Kerwin, 2014). According to Mohammed and Rashid (2016), internship can assist the students to develop a comprehensive picture of the actual industry and to rectify their negative image of it, and ultimately for them to join the industry

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While interns are applying and continuously learning technical skills based on their field or specialization, they could also practice and develop soft skills in various situations in an office environment. Previous research of Leslie (1991) claimed that internships develop their work habits such as the use of initiative, communications skills, punctuality, self-confidence and social skills, which are difficult to learn in a classroom setting. Interns can make observations on strengths and areas of improvement of different processes, systems and tools in their respective company. Along the way, they will learn how to assess the components of an issue/problem as they develop their critical-thinking skills and be able to find ways in voicing out their concerns and propose innovative solutions. In a previous study of Dabke (2016), the positive predictors of internship effectiveness include interpersonal skills, courtesy, and positive attitude and interns are also most likely to be absorbed or being considered for permanent role if they have great exhibition of teamwork, interpersonal skills and professionalism.

Aside from skills development, interns can also get exposure in dealing with other types of people in the workplace. According to Calloway & Beckstead (1995), the program exposes students to practical skills, improve their social relationships, motivate future learning and enhances their social personality. Opportunities to work and interact with others has an added impact to a positive work experience (Rothman, 2007). In a previous study conducted by D’Abate, Youndt and Wenzel (2009), it was found out that interns has a tendency to feel more satisfied if their work significantly impacted others and the organization. It was also revealed that feedback from supervisors showed a positive relationship with internship satisfaction.

Internship enables students to reflect on their career choices (Tse, 2010). They would have the opportunity to discover their job interests and objectives under a professional mentor (Chen, Hu, Wang and Chen, 2011). While there are images and expectations set by students prior working as interns, there are various factors in the workplace that could integrate changes in their career decision-making. Work policies, systems and strategies as well as factors such as engagement with co-workers, work culture, challenges and work stress could mix with the goals and expectations initially set by students like learning opportunities and great supervisors.

The findings of previous study of Odio, Sagas & Kerwin (2014) showed that internship plays a major role in shaping students’ career trajectory. It emphasized how students conceptualize their career path, and the changes that occur over the time of their senior internship. Some students who participated in their study made more career-minded statements prior their training including their interest to gain accomplishments and happiness. After finishing their internship, new value images formed consisting of work environment and aspects of the job itself, including the desire for good coworkers and reasonable working hours (Odio, Sagas & Kerwin, 2014).

Lastly, interns can strongly build their characters and develop their personalities through dealing with challenges, stressors and other issues arising from their actual roles and within the work environment. Based on the previous study of Chinomona and Surujlal (2012), students’ internship work experience significantly influenced both their self-improvement and professionalism. It was emphasized that interns are learning to handle not only day-to-day responsibilities of a job within their chosen field but also the ability to manage unexpected situations involving their profession. These young workers develop professional aptitude towards execution of duties and responsibilities at workplace which might also benefit them in their future employment (Chinomona & Surujlal, 2012)

In the previous study of Ali and Muhammad (2018), it was claimed that interns get motivated through observing mentors and other managers and they are most likely to feel energetic if appreciated by mentors or seniors and start performing efficiently and effectively. Through an exposure with activity-based learning, internship is an excellent opportunity for grooming and developing the personalities of students since it makes them more motivated and goal-oriented, increases their overall confidence level, makes them punctual and regular and helps them manage their time effectively (Ali & Muhammad, 2018).

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