UNIMAK gives students hands-on experience of professional IT work

Prof. P F U Taylor,  Coordinator, announces an exciting new initiative at UNIMAK:

UNIMAK introduces On-Campus Internship Program (OCIP) 2015/16

One of the most challenging aspects of technology or Engineering curricula in African Universities today, is the recurrent difficulties in securing placement for students/graduates in industry, in order for them to gain practical (on the job) experience relevant to the profession for which they were trained. It is common knowledge Universities train students on theory and, at best, Laboratory exercises to test text book (ideal/never fail) case studies, far away from REAL life practice. The orthodox age-old approach to compensate for this lapse in training, is to send students to industry for Internship attachment or apprenticeship.
This approach has not been successful, as most companies are usually reluctant to accept students for internship attachments, even though they are not required to give stipends to the interns. This attitude is based on the justifiable fear that graduates from tertiary Institutions may have degrees but lack practical skills to make them readily usable in industrial production to meet company profit-oriented goals.

Setting up the system from the existing computer laboratory

Setting up the system from the existing computer laboratory

Another possible and more practical approach, would be for the companies, who are the prospective employers, to agree to give on-the-job training for new employees. However, this is not being done by companies because of the financial implications. Funds for this desirable on-job training of new employees, is an expense companies consider as unnecessary and therefore, not normally budgeted for. It is cheaper, from the companies perspective, to employ experienced workers that the company can productively use from day one. Although this line of reasoning can be shown to be short-sighted but does make immediate economic sense.
It is worthy to note that this preference for experienced new employees is coded in all advertisements inviting applications for job vacancies. The Adverts usually include a clause specifying a non-zero “minimum number of years of relevant experience” as a mandatory requirement that applicants MUST meet. By implication, this mandatory previous experience clause, disqualifies all fresh graduates.
The irony of this hurdle that fresh graduates are faced with in their job hunt, is that even Universities and other Tertiary Institutions, that train and produce these job-seeking graduates, never fail to include the “minimum number of years of previous relevant experience” requirement clause in their own advertisements for job vacancies within their Institutions, emphasizing the importance of pre-work professional experience.

Trainers and interns on the maiden OCIP programme

Trainers and interns on the maiden OCIP programme

There is, therefore, a desperate need to find a way to include the Internship/apprenticeship component, that will be acceptable to employers as satisfying the minimum entry experience requirement, in our University curriculum in order to make our graduates marketable.
An ideal approach that can include this much desired professional experience into the curriculum, is to have an arrangement whereby the Universities unambiguously specify the minimum skills companies expect of or require a graduate to possess in order to be productive to the company from day one. Graduates can then be sent to industries where practising professionals will teach these skills, so specified, in a form of apprenticeship for a minimum agreed period and receive a certificate in the end before attempting to apply for a job. This can not be possible in real life, because it is a distraction for practicing professionals who have their daily company goals and assignments that do not include teaching the required skills. Besides, any attempt to teach interns in the industry, will require halting the production processes to demonstrate to interns, resulting in unacceptable economic loss to the company. In real life, the very few students who are lucky to be accepted for internship in industry end up either being idle throughout the period or doing non-professional odd jobs like clerical tasks.

The UNIMAK Solution

Faced with this recurrent challenge, the University of Makeni, has introduced a pragmatic approach to the Internship dichotomy, by using a bringing “the Mountain to Moses” approach, suggested by the Vice Chancellor, and eventually developed and appropriately named the On-Campus Internship Programme (OCIP) by the Department.

The professionals with vast relevant industrial experience who came to the campus as Resource Persons

The professionals with vast relevant industrial experience who came to the campus as Resource Persons

OCIP invites professionals with vast relevant industrial experience to come to our campus as Resource Persons to lead and demonstrate their skills for a day or two to interns, who will then be supervised to individually repeat skills demonstrated. The programme is initially designed for the Information and Technology (IT) Department and the first interns to benefit are the 2015/6 graduates of the Department. The maiden OCIP will run for four weeks, starting on 13th September and end on 7th October, 2016.
The objective of the On-campus Internship Programme (OCIP) is primarily to create, as realistically as possible, an industrial environment where students can be exposed to and have hands-on experience of real life practical aspects of the profession for which they were or are being trained in the University. In order to create the proper industrial environment, an appropriate Code of Conduct was designed.
OCIP 2016 CODE OF CONDUCT
INTRODUCTION
The whole idea and main objective of the On-Campus Internship Programme (OCIP) is to provide real life hands-on professional exposure for participants in a setting that is as near to Industrial as possible. It is hoped that prospective employers will accept successful completion of the UNIMAK OCIP as sufficient practical entry experience for employment as IT officer into their work force, requiring minimum or no further immediate training.
In order to achieve this quality, our OCIP must meet certain minimum criteria:

 

a) Each participant will be made to see him/herself as a worker in an industrial environment.
b) All interactions during OCIP must be based on this understanding.
c) OCIP Participants will be referred to as “INTERNS” and staff referred to as “SUPERVISOR”, “RESOURCE PERSON”, OR COORDINATOR depending on the functions and responsibilities performed.
d) Adhere to basic industrial Code of Conduct and Discipline;
e) Submit a weekly authenticated report of activities;
f) Pass all Assessment Tests to qualify for a Certificate

RULES for Interns

a) Attendance must be punctual and complete;
b) Workday starts at 9am and ends at 5pm with a lunch break from 12.30pm to 1.30pm, Monday through Friday
c) An Intern must Sign-in to work not later than 9.15am in morning and no later than 1.45pm after the lunch break
d) The first two days of each week are reserved for Orientation and demonstration of the tasks of the Module of the week;
e) Only Interns who attended the Orientation days will be allowed to perform the hands-on tasks of the rest of the week.
f) Only INTERNS who attended 80% of both Orientation and Hands-on will be allowed to take the End of Module Assessment tests.
g) Each Intern is required to submit an authenticated weekly report of activities to the Supervisor, based on the approved format, before the end of workday on every Friday.

CRITERIA FOR CERTIFICATION

1. Minimum of 80% attendance.
2. Pass in ALL Assessment Tests and Exams.
3. Regular and punctual submission of weekly Reports in the approved Format.
4. No queries for disciplinary lapses.

SCOPE OF PROGRAMME
OCIP is planned to cover critical skills areas, divided into three (3) modules listed below, which we consider basic for a practicing IT Officer at the current level of technology infiltration in our economy.
Each Module will be introduced as 2-days of orientation, led by the invited Resource Persons, to be immediately followed by 3-days of supervised individual hands-on practicals. At the end of each module, the interns will be required to take an Exam and the scores earned will contribute to a final assessment for an UNIMAK OCIP Certificate.

ocip-modules
COMMISSIONING OF OCIP COMPUTER NETWORK AND AWARDS CERTIFICATES
At the end of each OCIP, some practical and functional ICT project must have been executed to professional standards by interns.

OCIP 2016
The OCIP 2016 team was given an assignment to “Design, Plan, Lay-out and set-up a functional 4-seater computer network“ from scratch. To this end, the University sponsored the programme and provided an empty room for the purpose at the Sylvanus Campus, at Yoni, Makeni.

Interns apply the tools and skills of their new IT profession

Interns apply the tools and skills of their new IT profession

By the end of the second week and module 23rd September 2016, the assignment had been fully and satisfactorily accomplished by the OCIP 2016 interns. This constructed 4-seater Network is easily expandable which is now ready for use as a computer Laboratory, and was commissioned by the Vice Chancellor, Rev. Fr. (Prof) Joe Turay, on 7th October, as part of the closing ceremonies when successful interns received their OCIP certificates.

Successful participants of the maiden OCIP

Successful participants of the maiden OCIP

OBJECTIVES AND BENEFITS
The objective of the OCIP is primarily to give interns practical and real-life hands-on exposure to skills that will give them a positive advantage in the search for jobs, especially as an evidence of relevant previous professional experience.
There are, however, valuable benefits that can evolve from the programme. Firstly, if OCIP is made an annual component of the curriculum, the Department will have no difficulties to set-up an ICT team that should be able to handle most, if not all, IT projects in the University as a whole. The Department has the required expertise to back up a supporting OCIP team.
Secondly, the OCIP produced IT team can vie for consultancy jobs from companies, not only in Makeni but whole of North and the country, as a whole, because our fees will be very competitive for comparable professional services.
And finally, UNIMAK may have landed a controlled and cost-effective solution to the Internship dichotomy.

 

 

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