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  • Survival of the fittest

Survival of the fittest

01 February 2021

Buddhi Pathiraja , Associate Director - Corporate Finance and Advisory |

As competition for graduate jobs increases, job seeking under graduates need to think of new ways to set themselves apart from all of the other equally qualified peers. Graduates who have relevant workplace experience tend to be more valued by employers. An internship is an opportunity offered by an employer to potential employees, called interns, to work at a firm for a fixed period of time. Interns are usually undergraduates or students, and most internships last between a month and three months. In Sri Lanka, in numerous instances, the key word “potential employee” plays no role in deciding or selecting interns. Internships can be part-time if offered during a university semester and full-time if offered during the vacation periods.

What does an intern gain from this practical experience? They will be able to acquire practical skills, workplace experience and greater knowledge of that industry, in exchange for the employer benefiting from their fairly “cheap” labour.

An internship can be either paid, voluntary or for an allowance. The above are fairly debatable topics where, paid means the intern pays the employer to obtain the internship. The second is where the undergraduate provides a service in return to the training he obtains. The latter is where an employer provides a meagre allowance to the intern. Voluntary internships are often cited as exploitative while on the other extreme, an internship which pays well are usually the most competitive.

A confusion many undergraduates make is to confuse an apprenticeship with the internship.

An apprenticeship is a dedicated vocational programme that combines work-based training and study towards an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) or foundation degree while internship specifically relates to a degree. An apprenticeship is a paid programme which typically will last between 12 and 18 months, though this depends on the level of the qualification.

Internships are an excellent addition to the CV and in an increasingly competitive jobs marketplace, they really can set you apart from other candidates. Yet, economic constraints and also the lack of thirst to acquire knowledge, often pushes an interest of an undergraduate to “opt” for an internship to the bottom. But, the bitter truth is that unpaid internships allow privileged students who don’t need the money to breeze ahead of those who need to be paid in order to afford rent, food & tuition. It’s a constant cycle that allows certain students to capitalize on an opportunity others simply can’t afford.