The completion of a tertiary education can never be said as being fulfilled without industry experience. Students, who have been cooped up in the ivory tower for so long, find it hard to adapt to the dynamic and demanding lifestyle of the working environment without prior experience. Similarly, many companies have been complaining on the lack-luster quality of graduates, unable to cope with the needs and demands of the industry. I have mentioned this previously in many of my posts on nurturing human capital, and I have generally held the view that both parties should be more proactive and held responsible for this predicament. However, I foresee a way out. It is called “an internship”, aka industrial training.
If one looks at most established companies, it is not hard to find interns milling about the company premises. Many a story have been written about the experiences of an intern, ranging from being treated as an office boy/girl, to being shown the loops of the industry which culminated in an ultimately successful career. However it may turn out, this would still be a student’s first experience with the industry. Even if the supervisor is a Miranda Priestly (of Devil Wears Prada persuasion) wannabe, there are far more that one may experience through the “ordeal”. In the words of an acquaintance of mine, “The ‘horror’ (of the bad internship) will end, but the links and connections (forged during this period) will survive.”
Not that I am trying to say that internships would be horrifying, but it certainly is a challenge. And unless students are not only willing to step up to the challenge, but also be proactive in seeking opportunities to improve oneself, they would be left behind.
Companies and policy makers are starting to understand the importance of such training. At a recent seminar, the general manager of a Bionexus status bioinformatics company mentioned to the general audience that the company has an internship programme to help graduates understand the loops of the industry. The Managing Director of a biotech product development company has mentioned to me on many occasions how he employs staff from the various interns the company takes in from the biotech field every year. Similarly, BiotechCorp, the one stop biotech support center under the purview of MOSTI, had announced a Biotechnology Special Training Programme for Unemployed Life Sciences Graduates (BeST) which is a six-month intensive and structured retooling programme combining classroom-based instruction, laboratory work and industry internship.
The opportunities that are available are endless. Now, with the “adults” opening up the avenues and showing the way to move to students, my only advice is, “Go, explore and experience to the fullest”. Maybe one day, the “lowly” intern will blossom and become one of the movers-and-shakers of the local or even global biotech industry.