Tue, Aug 25, 2009
The Straits Times
More grads opting for internships

By Jamie Ee Wen Wei

At a time like this, a fresh graduate with two job offers will be the envy of her peers.

But Ms Bernadette Yuen, 23, turned down the full-time offers and instead opted for a two-month internship with an events firm, The Event Company Staging Connections.

She graduated in communications studies from Nanyang Technological University just a month ago.

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'I wanted something new but I didn't want to venture into a new area without first seeing if it fits me,' said Ms Yuen, who majored in journalism.

Unlike her, though, more fresh graduates may be opting for internships because regular jobs are scarce.

Mr Tay Kok Choon, head of strategic sales development of JobStreet Singapore, said the jobs portal has seen a strong interest and willingness among fresh graduates to accept internships.

They see an internship as one way to beef up their resume and stay afloat before the economy recovers, human resource experts said.

Companies, on their part, are actively recruiting interns. JobStreet said it is seeing more internships being offered on its database.

The recent slew of government-linked initiatives aimed at benefiting new graduates is also believed to be helping them land such jobs.

In March, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) set up its Finance Graduate Immersion Programme to provide unemployed new university graduates with subsidised internships and attachments in the financial industry.

MAS declined to provide numbers for those employed under the scheme.

Human resources experts noted that apart from the public sector, the retail, IT, marketing and media industries are keen to hire interns.

Indeed, internship can be a win-win situation for companies and new graduates.

For the companies, hiring interns can provide a short-term workforce buffer. It also allows the firms to look out for suitable talent, said Ms Joyce Lim, area manager for human resource company Adecco Singapore.

As for the new graduates, they will gain experience and engage in networking, said Mr Peter Haglund, country manager of Manpower Staffing Services (Singapore).

'It also helps them to determine if they have an interest in a particular job,' he said.

Logically, interns who do well can expect full-time job offers after their stint. HR experts interviewed said they see a good number of interns offered permanent jobs after their internships ended.

Mr Haglund said: 'Industries such as IT tend to work more on a project basis. Firms may hire interns to fill temporary job positions and the chance of an internship becoming a full-time job is slim once the project ends.

'But there are industries, such as F&B, retail and events management, that constantly require people to man frontline positions. Here, chances of an intern getting a full-time job are higher.'

For an internship to work, HR experts say both sides - the company and the fresh graduate - need to take the process seriously and set clear objectives from the start.

JobStreet's Mr Tay said: 'It is not a vacation job for the participants to make some pocket money or for the companies to hire cheap labour.'

Remuneration-wise, he said a stipend of between $600 and $1,200 monthly is fairly common for interns. Benefits like health insurance are normally extended to interns too, he added.

Interns should not expect a cushy time.

Take it from Ms Yuen. In her short stint, she was involved in conceptualising proposals for four events and making pitches to high-profile clients in the oil and pharmaceutical industries.

'I was quite overwhelmed at times. There isn't a lot of hand-holding and the pace of work is very fast. The learning curve is very steep,' she said.

While the company has indicated it may create a full-time job for her, she may still look for other positions.

She does not regret her decision to take up the internship. 'I enjoyed the challenging work and, to a certain extent, it'll make my resume look better. It shows that I can do something different.'


This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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