Benefitting from Malawi’s internships

In their final year in college, two young undergraduates continually perused through newspaper advertisements, but all that greeted them were vacancies for someone with work experience.

Days they spent at home after graduation turned into months which, however, did not qualify them to be experienced degree holders. Later on, something dramatic happened.

Madalitso Mwenemurupa (23) and Alfred Kasito (26) found their way into the corridors of Plan Malawi, an international non-governmental organisation working in Malawi.

Along such thinking, the National Youth Council of Malawi (NYCOM), a body mandated to improve the well-being of the country’s youths, introduced a National Internship Programme, which Mwenemurupa and Kasito benefitted.

“The internship seeks to empower youths with work ethic skills through getting them attached to institutions and organisations as interns,” said the council executive director Aubrey Chibwana.

Mwenemurupa, a social science graduate and Kasito, a bachelor of education in humanities holder, benefited from the programme as Plan Malawi interns.

Employers impression

Supervisors for the two interns at Plan Malawi regional offices in Lilongwe expressed satisfaction. Community development officer Tuntufye Juma said: “Kasito has proved eager to learn faster. Maybe it is because his brain is still fresh since he is coming straight from college. What I have noted is that everyone has the potential to perform, you always don’t need three to four years’ experience for you to deliver at work,” she said.

However, Juma warned that sometimes employing experienced people backfires because some of them are too rigid to change and may miss on delivering in line with the demands of the new employer.

“It is in such an instance when inexperienced graduates become useful since their minds are not biased by previous work experience,” she said.

“Even if we employ an already experienced person, he or she still has to be oriented. So it is the same thing with these interns. They are oriented until they familiarise with the job requirements and environment here,” added Plan’s Billy Mukwikwi.

The interns overall supervisor, Tambuzgani Msiska, a programme unit manager, said he was impressed with their performance.

“Demand for experience is justified in some jobs like; accounting, administration but for jobs like community development facilitation, which these interns are doing; I noted that they performed well exceeding my expectations. So, it is unfair to deny them job chances on basis of lack of prior work experience,” he further said,

“How I wish many employers opened up to the national internship initiative. I am sure that Malawi [would] significantly reduce unemployment and also many school leavers would get job experience.”

Securing the internship

NYCOM identifies the potential interns by calling for applications through newspaper advertisements.

“I never knew anything about NYCOM or the internship until my mum saw a newspaper advertisement and asked me to apply. I hesitated because I was tired of applying for jobs without success,” Mwenemurupa said.

Her hopes began to fade as several months elapsed before she was called for interviews.

Similarly, it was Kasito’s first time to hear of such an advertisement.

“Then about two to three months elapsed without hearing anything from NYCOM, I forgot about it until I got a phone call asking if I were still interested in the internship,” he said.

Plan Malawi oriented the two on work place scenario, application letter and CV writing, entrepreneurship and other skills.

NYCOM programme assistant Barwani Msiska said the organisation got around 500 applications.

“We are happy that finally, we have managed to start placing the youth on employment line. This is what the National Internship Programme intends to achieve and continue doing.”

NYCOM and employers sign a six- month contract.

“The employers are free to negotiate with the interns for extension of the period,” said Msiska.

She similarly shared her conviction that even without prior work experience, an educated employee can deliver.

Otherwise, denying fresh graduates a chance to work just because they do not have prior experience might sometimes be simply punishing them for being young. 

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