Careers and Internships

The world’s 1.2 billion young people (ages 15–24) constitute 18% of the global population. Most of them live in rural areas of developing countries. This is the age group that graduates from high schools and universities ready to enter into the job market. Unfortunately, millions of youths who graduate from schools in Africa and Asia are not equipped with the necessary skills to enter into professional careers or to become self-employed. They also lack information about available opportunities and the experience required by employers.

According to a 2006 report from the International Labor Organization (ILO), young people account for almost half of unemployment globally. The figures are even more alarming in low-income countries. And even if they manage to land a job interview, rural youths, especially girls, lack the confidence to get through it without emotional trauma.

While some employers target fresh graduates, many require job experience. In itself experience is a barrier for young fresh graduates to enter into job market. After several applications and interviews hoping to land on their first jobs, millions of youth who graduated with high hopes coupled with expectations from parents, fall victim to frustration and despair. First, they graduate with the excitement that their academic achievement will automatically earn them dream jobs. Second, they anticipate that their first monthly pay will mark the end of the financial hardship of college years and the beginning of a decent life. Third, they have high hopes of responding to pressure from those who supported through their school years to begin sharing their financial burdens. When these dreams do not translate into reality, they continue to depend on their parents and friends. Many become frustrated and resort to alcohol or drug abuse, which then becomes another source of conflict between parents and youth.

Fortunately, there is good news from the job market. Employers are looking for skilled and confident young people to hire. What is needed is a bridge program that enhances the skills and boosts the confidence of young graduates, especially girls, to become competitive before they attempt to enter the job market. IIRR’s internship program is just that.


Types of Internships at IIRR

Frequently, undergraduate or graduate students may find that they can get academic credit from worthwhile work as interns with an internationally respected organization such as IIRR. The work could consist of a skill practice, research, or practice teaching. These are often short- term assignments that provide opportunities to gain experience in their field of studies. Interns will identify their own means of covering the cost of the internship, which could last from 2 weeks to 3 months

Organizations seeking an opportunity for their staff members to acquire specific skills and experience may wish to attach interns to IIRR. These internships could range from one to several months. The costs are covered by the sponsoring organization or employer.

This category is for students in their last year. With this kind of internship, a student does research related to the field of study. Such research could also be commissioned or sponsored by company or business that may have a need for specific information. The cost of research internships will be covered by either a research grant or directly by the company or business wishing to commission the research.

The primary aim of this internship is to ensure that college and graduate students, particularly rural youth, get employed upon completion of the internship, preferably before they complete the internship. Ideally, this will be a 1-year assignment of on-the-job training for young graduates. The aim is to prepare interns to successfully transition from internship to formal employment. Active coaching, mentorship, carrier guidance, skill development, networking, and other forms of confidence-building measures are provided by IIRR staff. Interns will be assigned to one of our field sites or attached to one of our partners. IIRR will provide a minimum financial support to cover food, transport, and communication. Since this is not an employment, IIRR will not have any other obligations to interns.

The IIRR Africa regional office in Nairobi has had the richest experience with local interns. Every single one – that’s 100% – got professional jobs either before they completed the 12-month internship or soon after. A good number have also remained in the institute where they currently hold professional positions. It is obvious from the experiences of many interns that the unemployment problem of millions of young graduates stems not just because of low demand in the labor market, but because the fresh graduates do not have the required confidence, skills, and experience needed by the job industry.

One IIRR intern was Melsa Mwanja, who was attached to our training program until April 2011, when she got a job with the Cooperative Bank in Mombasa upon completion of her internship. In her farewell letter to her supervisor, Melsa has the following to say.

It has been a worthwhile learning opportunity for which I will forever be indebted. The whole internship experience has been a real eye opener into the operations of the NGO world, and it has sharpened my public relations skills, communication skills, and the ability to relate with people of all calibers. The chance has ignited in me an interest in learning about various aspects of Fundraising, Monitoring and Evaluation, and Institutional Development, which for me form a strong foundation for future engagements. Once again, I sincerely thank you for having provided me with a conducive environment to learn and for allowing me to take serious responsibilities not as an intern, but as a member of IIRR staff. I never for once saw myself less than a staff. I wish the entire IIRR fraternity well now and always.

Melsa’s testimony serves as documented evidence that IIRR lives up to its values and treats interns as staff members, providing them with every opportunity to learn and grow. These are the foundations upon which IIRR plans to build its ambitious internship program.