Friday, 11 April 2014

How Kenyan Employers Exploit Interns

Internships programs have become popular among Kenyan organizations. They are meant to equip ‘fresh graduates’ with the much coveted hands on experience. Internships act as a springboard for the graduates they first join their respective industries to practice the careers.  It bridges the gap between the theory learnt in class and the actual work. 


With the diminishing job opportunities, fresh graduates opt to join the job market through internship programs offered by various companies. This way, they get practical lessons after which they may be absorbed by the organization. This remains the one of the best methods to hire. Companies create a pool of candidates who are fully acculturated and have a considerable understanding of the organization.  They can always select from this pool that they have trained.

The number of graduates being churned out of the universities by far outstretches the number of job vacancies available. Consequently, the internship positions have become very competitive with rigorous interviews as they may land one a permanent job. Some organizations have taken their internship programs seriously and those who join come out much better; skilled and somewhat experienced. Interns are assigned mentors who guide them so they are able to realize their full potential and become experts in their fields.

However, there is a dark side of the internships in Kenya. As much as there are organizations that invest in interns, there are others that seek to exploit them. These organizations take advantage of them. They exploit the young graduates as they do not have many options and are increasingly becoming desperate owing to the limited job opportunities. The interns work in slave like conditions since they cannot afford to waste any opportunity accorded to them. 

Most interns are not given any stipend to cater for fare and lunch and as such, they are forced to fend for themselves despite the fact they are offering free services. In some organizations, they are given loads of work as the immediate boss decides to take a break and does not provide any mentoring. Others want them to work for 60 hours a week still with no stipend.

Other employees look down upon them. Most employees wrongly assume that all the fresh graduates have no idea of what is to be done. The interns have been trained and have knowledge and not all graduates are ignorant. What they need is application of this knowledge. This contempt by employees towards the interns has greatly impacted negatively their motivation and consequently their productivity. They have a divided attention as they are always looking for opportunities elsewhere. In the end, they do not give 100% of their effort. 

By and large, the interns have poor working conditions. Most organizations do not offer contracts for the internship positions and as a consequence, they are not protected by the law. In case of an abuse by the employer, they have no legal backing. Nobody treats them with respect. What these organizations, seem to forget is that, the mistreatment of the interns will spread like bushfire. In no time, the organization will not have a name to hold onto. It will not be able attract the best talent available.

To end this menace, organizations should formulate a comprehensive internship policy. The policy should adequately address the issues of motivation, professional development, job description, responsibility, roles and working hours among others. Organizations should endeavor to nurture the talent for their own benefit and for the benefit of the intern.

Most importantly, treat them as you would wish to be treated. We all begin from somewhere and at some point you went through the stage. It’s doesn’t pay to frustrate the life of another person. They are not only human like us but are our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. Don’t forget to request for a contract and to negotiate with the employer. Lastly and most importantly, always give your best, you will be rewarded.