BRIDGE THE GAP BETWEEN YOUNG PROFESSIONALS AND THEIR COMMUNITIES
BY JOSELINE BYAKATONDA
The unexplainable reason for ingraining internship as an integral part of courses in institutions of learning was to bridge the gap between elites or professionals and the community, the delink created by ‘the I know more mentality.’ Internships currently adopted in most courses of learning addresses the outcry by fresh graduates about the job market’s demand for experience, which they definitely wouldn’t have and the employers’ grumbling about the poor readiness for employment by most graduates. Now days, a course without internship is considered a flat course, a name that described nonmarketable course. Students offering such courses were declared ‘careerfailures’ and jobless. If implemented right and thoroughly, internship can be a mine of valuable experience, it can as well turn out to be a mine of stagnation, nurturing mediocrity and unprofessional behaviour depending on the culture at the organization of placement.Internship is an excellent means to apply information
learned in theory to real-world experience, in so doing, exploring multiple career paths and specialties that suit individual preferences. It increases marketability by gaining knowledge and allows one to gain experience in the job field, which gives people an advantage over other applicants
on the job market. However, with the current shift in business and change
of systems, marketability is no longer according to credits but swiftness and
how widely one is skilled. Specialised skills no longer stands-alone. To gain a niche over others therefore, one has to do more than just internship. However, though interns equally learn how a professional office functions, nothing beats firsthand experience. Internship thus, helps one determine what one enjoys and dislikes. The sole purpose is to link professionals
to the community for them to understand and identify gaps where they could serve. Internship however, has turned out to be a gauge period of choosing which sector has more opportunities of earning easy money as opposed to gaining more experience. Over the years, the gap between professionals and the community is growing wider, especially as young professionals join the job market. Sometimes, the real-world experience
is not got if the organisation does not have a community interface. Some
organisations too, depending on how sensitive their clientele is, may not provide a real community experience. Therefore, although internship has positive elements that ought to be maintained, the big question still remains: what can be done to return professional sanity in Uganda.
Professionalism is only possible when professionals ‘who are the lite of society’ are linked to it. Service-learning models in the current times may do a good job because it is an educational approach where a student learns and also engages in social service activities to deepen their understanding of what is being taught. It is a continuous cycle of theories, practice and
reflection tools to broaden knowledge and critical thinking skills for social change. As a result of service learning, students learn more about the community and themselves while fulfilling a need in the community and meeting classroom or degree requirements. The notion of social enterprise emanates from this model. The model also awakens the capacity of interns
to serve others; refines their ability to make decisions, understand the meaning of responsible citizenship and grow in awareness of cultural differences. The model tasks professionals to identify challenges in their community and generate solutions, them being at the fore front. The essence is to enable elites identify with the community and be engineers of change. It all points to leadership, creating an enabling environment for them to know their worth in society, realising just how important
they are-leaders for positive change. In internship, there is little room for
self-leadership, forced by circumstances students may just act to earn a credit. Also, there may be little room for change since systems (whether good or bad) are already in place and as is the culture, systems are
readily challenged in Uganda. In a servicelearning project however, because it deals with people, there is always room to better strategy of engagement daily. The model equally kills the blame game approach often heard in communities. Somehow, everyone blames someone or an institution which never materialises into a solution most of the time because in essence, the only person to manage is me. The world is waiting for the learned to make a difference, which requires humility, understanding how different sections of the community interface. Uganda’s economy changes daily, so do the skills and experience needed to fit in that growth cycle. As the economy influences the job market and job market
influences the economy, every sector is surely competitive. Besides, with
thousands of students graduating each year, job opportunities are increasingly becoming scarce, nurturing students into service learning will enable them create jobs through self-engineered projects.
“Internship however has turned out to be a gauge period of choosing which sector has more opportunities of earning easy money as opposed to gaining more experience…”
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