I delivered the following speech during MOE COS debate today.
Sir, I have taken interns in my companies for the last 13 years, from secondary to tertiary students. I made it a point to expose them to real-life work, as relevant as possible to their training, skills and interests.
Internship is an important part of tertiary training, as the Minister had just said. This will become even more so when we run practice-based universities. Even research universities need to develop meaningful internships to allow their students keep abreast of industry needs. Countries like Germany have strong internship programmes. Often, graduates continue to work for the companies they interned in. Research know-hows from German universities have also strengthened the technical capabilities of companies, often through internship and apprenticeship links.
Madam, there may develop a gap between the number of interns and the availability of meaningful internship places as we increase our tertiary intake. From my experience, I also found differing intensity of engagement by education institutions and by their supervisors with companies like mine.
Internship can be an effort beyond the institutions. It can be at the country level. We can identify technical skills needed in priority sectors and help inject these capabilities into local companies to make them global players. The government can work with larger companies to identify those prepared to commit a minimum number of internship places with real-world projects, and support companies by funding an internship manager. This manager can mentor interns and even guide them while they work part-time from their schools on projects initiated during internship. This will allow companies to assign longer and realistic internship projects and tap on academic supervisors to guide students in research.
By building deeper engagement, it will raise the bar for internship across the country and foster closer links between the industry and research done in tertiary institutions.