Internship—the new job interview
At around this time in the academic year, Dean Joel Bawica of Laguna State Polytechnic University (LSPU) College of Computer Studies gets together with Associate Deans Catherine Castillo, Enrico Rivano and Jefferson Lerios to prepare for what can very well be a litmus test for both the quality of the university and the graduates that they produce. Bawica and his faculty, like their contemporaries in other higher education institutions all over the country, are arranging for internship assignments for their graduating students.
The process is relatively straightforward, but a number of factors come into play before a student actually lands an internship slot in a company. For starters, LSPU’s College of Computer Studies has been offering the Service Management Program specialization track that prescribes six units of internship—equivalent to 600 hours—in a company that belongs to the Information Technology and Business Process Management (IT-BPM) industry. That’s about 75 days in an 8-hour, 5-day work week.
Then there’s the issue of proximity of the workplace. LSPU’s main campus is in Santa Cruz. It also has campuses in San Pablo, Siniloan and Los Baños. For the intern, that means transportation and meal expenses during the course of the internship. The most critical factor, however, is getting through the stringent screening process that IT-BPM companies routinely use to determine the intern’s preparedness for the workplace.
Rivano candidly admits that relatively weak communication skills are a key reason for a number of students not making the cut. For some students, the problem stems simply from the regional language’s idiosyncrasies, the most common being switching the “f” and “p” beginning sounds. For other students, though, the problem is more visceral: Amid the intimidating pressure of a live interview, they have difficulty expressing their thoughts in a logical manner.
Bawica, Castillo, Rivano and Lerios coordinated the screening activities of four companies last October. For them, one organization—Genpact Philippines—stood out both in the way it handled the internship screening process and in the warmth and professionalism that its people projected on campus as they interacted with the students and faculty.
AVP Cynthia Maslian and sourcing specialist Xerlynn Villanueva-Caparas led a young and energetic team that did its job efficiently and with no small measure of care, sensitivity and fun. Sometimes, it took only a few simple words of encouragement from the team to help the students hurdle the interviews and the training.
Www.Internships.com, a portal for educators, employers and students looking for internships, says: “Internships enable employers to find future employees, test-drive talent, increase productivity and employee retention rate, and revitalize an organization with fresh perspectives and specialized skill sets. Furthermore, internship programs are not just for large companies and mega corporations. Small and medium-sized businesses can benefit as much, if not more, from the up-to-date knowledge, boundless motivation, and extra sets of hands… whether it’s one intern or a team of 10. In our survey of businesses, we actually found that small businesses used interns as frequently as large corporations.”
It goes on to say that an internship is “the new interview.” According to its user data, 63 percent of graduating seniors have completed at least one internship, and 7 out of 10 of these interns have been offered full-time jobs.
The value of a well-planned internship program cannot be overemphasized, as shown by the Commission on Higher Education’s Memorandum Order 23 series 2009 (also known as Guidelines for Student Internship Program in the Philippines for all Programs with Practicum Subject). It provides that “CHEd shall require student exchange and establishment by higher education institutions of strong academic linkages with business and industry to promote and provide students with competitive skills and attitudes for employment.”
In his speech at the recent International IT-BPM Summit, Dan Reyes, Genpact president and board chair of the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines (Ibpap), said: “One of our biggest challenges, even today, is to convince investors to come to the Philippines. The progress of the Philippines in the last five years, especially with investor ratings, has certainly helped boost the country’s image. More importantly, the quality of the work of the Filipino IT-BPM agent is well known and has been this industry’s best branding message. We are proud of our people and the work they have delivered to the world.”
When Reyes and LSPU president Nestor de Vera signed a partnership agreement a few months ago, they both said they expected nothing but great things from the collaboration between industry and academe, most especially for the students.
It looks like both Reyes and De Vera were right. The Genpact team’s efforts at LSPU resulted in a better-than-expected yield of interns with an above-average chance of being hired at the end of their internship.
Most of all, Deans Bawica, Castillo, Rivano and Lerios all say that many LSPU students now see Genpact as a friendly workplace where they can start and build their professional careers.
Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education lead for talent development at Ibpap.
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