Industrial Training (IT), Industrial Attachment or Internship, whatever name it is called, is no doubt, students’ first shot at the competitive, congested and already overcrowded labor market.
Indeed, many people who get employed with several public or private agencies in Nigeria today without a godfather made their inroads into such agencies through their IT. Too many examples abound to mention, a fact that underscores the relevance of the scheme in the course of training students in skills-based disciplines.
It is, however, unfortunate that nowadays, students make nonsense of this lofty scheme, and rubbish their chances of gainful employment after graduation. Sadly, such students think they are cheating on either their places of IT, or the educational system that includes IT as one of the key requirements for certain courses.
And funny enough, they would always fall back on their parents, lecturers and uncles to ‘hook’ them up with employers of labor when they messed up their golden opportunity of securing gainful employment at their places of IT.
As a lecturer, sometimes I go on IT supervision and see students who are tracing their ways to their IT posts for the first time! Today, many students are total strangers to their IT stations, and this denies quite a number of them valuable employment opportunities.
On one of my supervision tours, a company supervisor told an IT student (who he had never seen before and thought was his visitor) to wait, that a lecturer on supervision tour to his students was going to use his office, and he would attend to him- presuming that he was his visitor- after I was done with my students! I had to inform him that the person he thought was his visitor was actually one of the students I was going to supervise, to his greatest shock. Yes, that is how bad it could be sometimes.
During my IT, I had it at the back of my mind that I was embarking on one of the most important exercises that would shape my post-graduation life in the industry, and that guided my exploits in the industry from the choice of the agency to attach with, and my actual performance while on IT. I must confess that I had a very fruitful IT experience, and the contacts I established during IT are still beneficial to me to this day.
I must also be quick to emphasize that the establishment where one chooses to do his IT is as important as what they’re likely to learn or gain from the place. For instance, during my IT, I submitted a letter of placement in a certain media station and had several issues getting accepted. The station was skeptical of accepting pioneer students of a new university.
All the same, I was determined to press on until they accept me. However, my frustration with the administrative officer was unbearable at some point, and I had to explore other alternatives. I approached another media establishment and got immediate acceptance. In fact, in one visit, I submitted my application letter and got the acceptance letter. However, the circumstance of the acceptance was so funny that I had to dump the media house immediately after acceptance and go back to the initial station: why?
The administrative officer of the new media house promptly accepted my application for placement. Quite strange, however, his secretary had to use a manual typewriter to type my acceptance letter. And the funniest part of it is that he had to ask me for money before printing the acceptance letter which he typed for me in the manual typewriter! N100 or so I think at that time.
He apologized for the inconveniences though, but explained that he had to collect the money so as to fast-track the process of printing the acceptance letter. I guess there was no paper on which to print the letter.
I totally understood and gave him what he required to print the letter for me, but concluded I was not going to do my IT there again. Of course I had to walk away: one more look at the miserable office apartments, worn-out furniture, out-dated equipment, dilapidated structures and bureaucratic practices etc. all convinced me beyond what words would say, that the station was not a place to build career, so I took the letter and bade them a final goodbye.
Back to the initial media house: I had to press harder and disturb the administrative officer- emboldened by my serious disappointment at the other station- until he reluctantly accepted me. I was handed a neatly typed, well parceled and carefully sealed acceptance letter; and warned sternly that should I mess up during my IT; the station will NEVER accept interns from my “baby” university. Ourch!
That hurts! All the same, the packaging, the environment, the “swags”, the prestige, the caliber of persons I saw etc. all convinced me that the station was the right place to be for my IT. I reported on the appointed date and vowed never to let down my “baby” university.
My IT experience was rich, oh yes, very rich! I started going out with reporters and writing reports by the second week of my IT, and since then, was consistently in the daily bulletin throughout the period of my IT. Needless to state that I made money- like good cool cash, good friends, enjoyed good working relationship with my bosses and fellow interns from other institutions, and learned as much as I could.
But that was not all: after graduation, I went back to the same media house as a volunteer/casual staff and was promptly accepted! It was already a familiar terrain and I worked with the station for about five months before I eventually left for my NYSC, never to return again.
While I was at the NYSC orientation camp, the Manager News, together with the Deputy Manager and other key staff of the news room called to ask if they should facilitate my coming back to the station for my NYSC. The deal was that I would be placed on the priority list of competent hands awaiting a formal recruitment exercise, in which I would be a special candidate when it was time.
God bless my bosses, Alh. Suleiman Ibrahim – the Manager News and Alh. Umar Bakari, the Deputy Manager, and indeed, their accommodating lieutenants- producers, reporters and other staff with whom I had a great working relationship. However, I told them my Alma Mata indicated serious interest in me.
Already, my Head of Department was working tirelessly to have me posted back to the department where I graduated for my NYSC, after which I would be recommended for retention as a Graduate Assistant with the university. They appreciated the gesture and wished me well, even as I remained grateful to them for the offer too.
Dear students, IT is a golden opportunity. You can choose to be serious or unserious with it at your own expense. Like an African man would say: you’re doing yourself. No one cares. If you want to learn, depending on where you go, you will learn. If you choose to waste away the whole period, that is still fine; it’s entirely up to you.
But note that as you waste away that valuable time, you equally waste a wonderful opportunity that would have given you your first real shot at the competitive and already overcrowded labor market. The choice is entirely yours.
I hope this note of caution helps a determined soul.
Tordue Simon Targema writes from the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Taraba State University, Jalingo. Email: email@example.com