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Unpaid internship: Six young people share why they grabbed opportunity offered

Friday April 19 2019

 internship

The fact is that internships, paid or unpaid, are hard to come by, and while a number of young people balk at "working for free", there are those who believe that the work experience they will amass during the on-job training is more valuable than the wage or stipend some organisations pay interns. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

LILYS NJERU
By LILYS NJERU
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A few weeks ago, there was heated debate on Facebook and Twitter on whether employers should pay or not pay interns.

Universities and colleges require that students undergo attachment before they clear them to graduate. Most internships take at least three months, however, while some firms pay their interns, others do not. If you have been paying attention to conversations that take place on social media, then you need no telling that most internships are unpaid.

Sandra Nkatha, a HR practitioner, says that when looking for internship, what really matters are the long-staying aspects you will gain from it.

“This could be the necessary skills required in a particular field, a good recommendation letter or access to mentors,” says Sandra.

Chebet Kirui

Chebet Kirui is currently on three months’ unpaid internship with a local media house.

“The wage or stipend a company is willing to pay should not be the only consideration you make while choosing internship or attachment, internships should be much more than meeting an institution’s requirement since it is supposed to prepare you for the job market,” she reasons.

Her parents provide her with bus fare and money for meals, and while she admits that they are struggling to support her through internship, she feels that the experience and knowledge she is gaining during the work placement is invaluable.

The fact is that internships, paid or unpaid, are hard to come by, and while a number of young people balk at "working for free", there are those who believe that the work experience they will amass during the on-job training is more valuable than the wage or stipend some organisations pay interns.

Esther Muiruri

“In mid-2016, I got a six-months’ internship opportunity with The United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP. I resigned to take the internship. My close friends and relatives were appalled that I quit a well-paying job to take up unpaid internship. Although I was not getting any monetary value from the position, I knew that the skills I would get from on-job training and the networks I would make would be more valuable than money. So as not to stretch my savings, I would carry packed lunch to work. After completing the training, I did not get a job with the organisation, but it gave me a global experience that adds a lot of weight on my resume. In fact, that unpaid internship has opened many doors for me, including opportunities to work with multinational organisations. I am currently working with the Kenya Red Cross.”

James Mbugua

“In 2018, I took up unpaid attachment because I really needed hands-on experience in procurement, since this is what I was studying in university.

When I got the offer, I did not think twice about it because it had taken me a long time to get the internship. To foot my fare and other needs during the engagement, I worked at a friend’s cyber cafe during my free time and was also a part-time marketer at another friend’s boutique. At the end of my internship, the employer gave me a good recommendation letter that has been instrumental in the interviews I have attended since. I, in fact, got a job a few months after my internship. Back then, I felt demoralised to have interned for more than six months yet the company did not absorb me. Those skills, however, are what got me this job.

Solomon Ruhiu

“In June 2016, having applied for an internship position with various companies without getting positive feedback, I got unpaid internship with a government institution. Back then, my father could not understand why I was working “for free” though friends thought I was lucky to have gotten internship in the first place.

At first, it was quite challenging because I depended on my parents for my upkeep, but I later figured out a way to provide for myself. One of this ways was filling individual and company KRA returns for a fee, as well as helping people register companies. Having acted in primary and secondary school, during weekends, I would look for acting gigs.

The internship was quite enlightening, and I got first-hand experience on how government institutions work. I also got a good recommendation letter which has been an added advantage as I look for a job. I also learnt skills which come in handy in my side hustles to date. In addition, I widened my network. Presently, I am a purchase manager with a tech company.”

Samuel Karanja

“In 2014, I got unpaid internship, hoping to increase my chances of getting a job upon graduation. I studied Bachelor of Science in economics.

To facilitate my travel expenses, I got a job as a part-time teacher, tutoring Form Four students, though my parents also chipped in.

The internship enabled me to build valuable networks and make valuable friendships. That experience has also been of help during the various interviews I have attended. The only regret I have where that experience is concerned is that there wasn’t much for interns to do yet I had to show up at work on a daily basis.”

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