Internship, useful time to gain exposure

By Aznan Mat Piah

Now that final examination is over, many students are reporting at various organisations for internship programme to do their practical training.

Internship is a period of time when undergraduates undergo two and the half months or ten weeks of practical training to gain work exposure and to obtain real practical experience in the field. This is also the time for students to put their theoretical knowledge and skills they have learned in classrooms into practice.

Many choose to do their practical training during the short semester because they have ample time to complete the duration required. Some would come back again to the university for another semester before graduating. For some others,  this would be the final to do before they graduate at the end of the year. Thus, they prefer to do it at the end of their studies so that they do not have to come back for another semester to complete their studies.

Internship has been made compulsory for communication students specialising in public relations, journalism and electronic media to graduate. So it is left to the students actually to decide what appears to be the best arrangement for them in terms of the right timing.

Prior to attending internship or seeking attachment for practical training, students are required to complete one semester of practicum class on compulsory basis where they have the opportunity to organise their own programmes or events to prepare their minds before getting the real exposure in the industry. This does not only encourage students to display leadership skills and organisational ability but also to develop networking as well as to condition their mind before joining the industry. Students are also exposed to writing and speaking skills. So, by the time they go on their internship they would be in a better footing to handle their tasks and face tougher challenges.

Normally students would have programmes involving practitioners from the field to deliver their piece of professional advice and to give useful tips required for internship. Recently students invited Datuk Ibrahim Yahaya, a known figure in journalism, who is the Chief Executive Officer of BERNAMA TV, to give a talk on the expectations of the job and the profession.

They also had the opportunity to organise a career fair and to be exposed to organisations who would be their potential employers. A representative from Malaysian Public Services Commission was also invited to talk on career prospects in the public sector for graduates.

In the last five years I have been handling Practicum class and Internship programmes for public relations, in particular, close to 100 students have successfully completed their internship at various organisations in the public sector as well as the corporate and private sector organisations in Malaysia and abroad.

Students have had the opportunity to be attached at some of the established companies and GLCs such as PETRONAS, Permodalan Nasional Berhad, Telekom Malaysia, Tenaga Nasional Berhad, PLUS, Malaysia Technology Development Corporation (MTDC), Tabung Haji, state development corporations and the local authorities or municipalities.

Some had their internship with media organisations like BERNAMA, Radio Television Malaysia, Media Prima, TV3, TV Al-Hijrah, and ASTRO. Some also had useful experience with banking and commercial institutions like Kuwait Finance House, CIMB and Maybank. Some were attached at established and known public relations consultancy firms like Perception Management, Prestige Communication and GRA Communication. Others chose to be in multinationals like Shell and some did it in international hotels like Shangri La and MS Garden. There are also students who had the opportunity to do their internship in non-governmental bodies like Mercy Malaysia.

There are also students who did their training at various ministries and government agencies like the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Information, FELCRA, and government hospitals like HKL and other hospitals in state capitals.

Those students who looked for greater challenge and different perspective ventured to undergo practical training overseas such as at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Bosnia TV in Sarajevo and established private hospitals and institutions in Jeddah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Certainly I would like to record my appreciation to organisations, which had accepted our students for the attachment. Through internship programme students are able to gain the necessary exposure and to equip themselves with practical experience, knowledge and skills required by the industry. Apart from that, organisations will be able to gauge and assess for themselves the standard and quality of interns from a university like IIUM expected of the industry. In addition, they would also be in a position to expose the interns further to the knowledge and skills that they would prefer for the betterment of the industry.

In the past, I am glad many interns have paid serious attention to their practical training in wanting to improve their skills and in gaining exposure. This is clearly shown by the interest of the organisations where interns have been attached to offer them jobs even before the completion of their studies. Some were employed by these organisations immediately upon completing their internship. This really goes to show the recognition accorded by the industry for our students or would be graduates.

During the period students were on attachment at various locations, I have made efforts to visit the interns to talk to their supervisors on their progress and to make on-the-ground assessment. It is indeed very interesting to make the calls, at times, having knocked the opportunity to meet old friends and former colleagues at the organisations. And this gave me the advantage to renew professional acquaintance with the industry.

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox (The Internship)

Aznan Mat Piah

Senior Academic Fellow at IIUM. Has served the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Malaysia's diplomatic missions abroad in public diplomacy, and the Ministry of Information in public relations and information.

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