Recently I did an article on dynamics surrounding internships in Zimbabwe. I pointed out some issues of concern, one of them being how most students struggle to get internships. I also talked about how even when one does get internships they might not necessarily do what is in line with their focus area. For the most part, interns in Zimbabwe do not get the needed real-world experience. In this article, I shall be looking at ways in which interns can be given the best experience. In essence, these are things that employers should do to enrich their interns.

Give Them Roles And Responsibilities That Align With Their Study Area

The whole point of an internship is to give students real-world industrial experience. How is a student going to get that if they are assigned roles and responsibilities far removed from what they are studying? Ironically most employers are founding wanting in this regard. I feel it is a mindset that most employers have that those interns are just cheap labour that they can use anyhow. That is so wrong on so many levels! I have seen interns who end up being general hands when you closely examine their roles and responsibilities. The most rewarding experience you can ever give interns is to provide them with roles and responsibilities that appeal to what they are studying. They can actually bring great value to your company due to the fact they will mostly be eager to prove themselves.

Make Them Leaders And Allow Some Level Of Autonomy

One of the potent ways to both test and instil valuable skills in a person is by making them a leader. You can make them a team leader or make them run point on a task or a project. You can even temporarily assign them to lead a department. The whole idea will be to place them in positions that demand them to think and act strategically. You have no idea how interns would love to have such an experience. Interns are typically expecting to be treated as unimportant so giving them such opportunities will ignite their flame.

Additionally, whether they are leading or otherwise, allow them some level of autonomy. Give them some room to exercise their own discretion to make decisions on the go. This will teach them accountability and agility. If you are always going to be micromanaging them and treating them like robots you will be crippling. They will end up just enduring coming to work but without any zeal and motivation to invest themselves in it all.

Create A Mentorship Working Environment

When you hire interns set your priorities right as an employer. When you are hiring an intern it is more about them than it is about you – get that right people! They are there to be taught, trained, and equipped with the necessary experience for them to contribute to the economy. I like to actually put it to you that as an employer you are privileged to be able to get an intern. I am saying all this to emphasise how your working environment should be like mentorship for the intern. It would be great to assign them a mentor, and of course instructors in the different disciplines. The mentor should be intimately obsessed with monitoring and evaluating the progress of the intern. Think of it as an apprenticeship – the master is looking to pass on their skills to the next person. That will definitely be an exceptional experience for the intern.

Some Form Of Salaries And Benefits Goes A Long Way

I somewhat understand that salaries might not be possible always – though of course, that is subject to debate. However, there should be some form of benefits and perks involved. At least give them some allowances, some transport money, and the like. This helps them focus as they will not feel the burden of having to cater for themselves by themselves just to report for work. I doubt an intern grappling with rentals, transport money, and general upkeep issues will focus on work. After all, any form of compensation makes any employed person feel valued and in turn, motivated to put in the work.

Do Not Segregate – They Are Literally Your Employees

I am all too familiar with this segregation issue because I have seen it in many places. Do not segregate between interns and employees – I feel it is ridiculous to not consider an intern as an employee. It sounds funny but that is what is happening in many establishments. You get to see it when you zone in on how interns are treated. They will be excluded from company processes such as meetings or decision making. You will even find them not getting branded company wear like other employees.

I know of a particular example last year, I will not mention the name of the company, but employees were getting food hampers (to cushion against the scourge of COVID-19). Guess what? Interns were getting absolutely nothing which baffled me given that the pandemic affected everyone. This segregationist treatment is rife in most establishments where interns are treated as if they are not employees. Ironing out this vice will create the best experience for an intern.

Employers, this is for, let us give interns the best experience. You have no idea how you are shaping the future of Zimbabwe by how you regard and treat interns. Interns will most likely reflect their internship experiences if they later become employers. Plus if they do not get the appropriate industrial experience they will most likely not contribute much to the economy. Every parent would want the best for their child – think of interns in that way.