As a Gen-Z awaiting university, I often wonder if I am really choosing the right path for myself. It is hard to imagine yourself pursuing a certain career path with barely anything to go off on, besides some reviews and experiences you read on reddit.
Choosing a major for university can be difficult when you are not too sure about what job to pursue. This where the need for internships come in and proves to be the most beneficial method of providing youths with a chance to decide whether we are on the right track and how we can transition into working life in the future.
Internships: A Golden Opportunity
You are probably aware of what internships are, especially if you have studied in a polytechnic or university. Internships serve as the perfect opportunity for you to test the waters for the career path you’re looking at, as well as allow you to experience a taste of life in the workplace.
But the real question is, should internships be made mandatory in all universities and institutions, public and private?
Internships are especially helpful when paired with mentorship programmes. Being someone’s apprentice not only helps you look into the daily lives of those in your interested field, but you are also exposed to many opportunities to participate in some of these tasks. This is a great way to hone the skills taught in school and answers the questions I have about the specificities of the job.
Is It Beneficial?
On 22 August 2017, Young NTUC, the largest youth movement in Singapore, signed an agreement with the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) to bring Youth Career Network (YCN) programme volunteers into the respective schools, and support young soon-to-be working people in career navigation. The YCN programme was offered exclusively to undergraduates and has benefited many in- school youths, also giving young professionals a platform to pay it forward.
Rossana Chen, an alumnus of SUSS, is a healthcare administrator who underwent training hosted by the YCN programme to become an YCN mentor and career guide. After her training, she shared a previous experience of how her mentor had guided, supported and encouraged her to forge a career for herself when she was still an undergraduate. Now, she hopes to be a catalyst in someone else’s career such as her mentee, Han Quan, by helping him with insights into the industry to better prepare himself. Han Quan himself is now in the healthcare industry too.
It is safe to say that internships have more pros than cons, especially when making a choice that shapes your entire career path. With such an important decision at stake, internships should be made mandatory for all undergraduates, regardless of public or private education, because we will all be in the workforce eventually.
When Is the Right Time?
We have gone over how good internships are and why they are worth investing in by universities and institutions, but when is really the best time for students to participate in these programmes?
For universities that already have internships integrated into their curriculum, most are scheduled to occur in students’ penultimate year. This is great for those who are confident in their future career decisions, but not so much for those who are still not completely sure about what they want to go into specifically –which is totally fine!
Perhaps besides making internships mandatory, they could also be scheduled earlier in the academic calendar, even as early as the first year. The first year is usually for you to build a strong foundation based on a core curriculum of your chosen major. By scheduling an internship at the end of the first year, undergraduates would have enough information about the chosen industry to get through the internship, learn on the job, and pick up skills that can help them through the rest of their college years.
The internship could last anywhere between one to three months, giving undergraduates a better view of what their life could look like after they graduate. Especially since the internship is held so early, students could choose whether they want to stick to the career path or change their majors in the next year to something they did not realise they were more passionate about.
Overall, aside from gaining experience, internships also help to build a CV (who doesn’t love an elaborate resume). This is one of main reasons why many students in Singapore apply for internships on their own accord, whether it’s after A-levels, or during their university curriculum (separate from the mandatory one in the final year). However, not everyone gets accepted to the internships they apply to and finding programmes in certain sectors can be extremely difficult due to its competitiveness.
Therefore, in implementing mandatory internships during the first year of university, colleges and institutions are enabling their students to all have an equal opportunity to get to know their respective fields better, and students can better prepare themselves for work-life in the future.