I was in my third year of engineering when I started my first internship. And within the first few days, I realized a lacking, or more precisely a disconnect. I recognized that my conceptual knowledge had never been actually implemented. I recognized my theoretical knowledge lacking to actually convert into tangible skills expected of me as an engineer in a corporate world. And once I had eventually put to use what I had only read in college, the realization hit me that my understanding and authority over the subject was much greater and the topic was not as intimidating as it had seemed in my textbooks. After the internship, not only did I have valuable industry knowledge, I was also left with the realization that I had to re-learn and maybe even unlearn habits and my approach to learning.

The reason for bringing up this personal experience is to show how few months during an internship can be far more insightful than years of traditional classroom learning. Our Indian education system focuses primarily on textual knowledge leaving out the practical knowledge that’s needed to create skilled workers. A survey showed that over 80% of Indian engineers were not skilled enough to have jobs in today’s ever-competitive and unforgiving market. And there’s no denying that this is an alarming number. One of the primary reasons for this is simple; a student’s inability to apply they’re formal education in real-world scenarios. This disconnect between knowledge and its implementation is at the core of the problem and one that can be overcome through internships. Internships are platforms where students can put to use what they have learned through textbooks. It’s one thing to read and remember a chocolate cake recipe, a completely different thing to actually bake one. The same logic applies to formal education. Until we are aware of how a piece of particular information can be put to use, it isn’t really a skill. To become a valuable part of the economy, one needs to be not just knowledgeable, but skillful as well. This is what internships enable us to do. By allowing for a piece of knowledge to be implemented, and highlighting its practicality, internships help to convert textbook knowledge into a skill.

¬†Along with that, internships are a great out of the book knowledge building experience as well. They provide an excellent opportunity to pick up new skills and discover new interests. Internships enable a student to learn how things are expected in a corporate setup. They are an extremely useful window into the functioning of the industry involved. A reveal of the inner working of the industry isn’t just useful for a student to go back and learn new specific skills that’ll help them make better progress, but it also allows them to make the decision if the chosen industry is someplace they actually want to be in the future. A demo of sorts. And this is something invaluable. It might be during an internship that a person realizes if they actually want to commit their future to the chosen industry. An opportunity to explore career options without committing full time is undoubtedly very helpful. Internships are a great opportunity for self-examination. By highlighting strengths and by helping realize a person’s weaknesses, internships provide a person with a road map for future personal development.

The whole concept of internships is set up in a give and take fashion. The company gets a worker for a minimal monetary sum and the intern is as mentioned provided with valuable work experience and professional knowledge. It also is a chance for companies to scout for real talent, as they interact closely with the intern and have readily available work to supervise and evaluate. On the other hand, interns use this as an opportunity to portray their skills and convert the part-time setup into a full-time job. This brings us to another benefit of internships. Not just students, experienced people who have found their calling in another field and are confident about their skills, internships provide an excellent opportunity to display their skills and justify their interests through real tangible work. They can thus be considered as the initial step into a new field of work.

Internships are thus a great learning experience, to both polish learned knowledge into skills and to learn new ones. and should be an essential part of formal education. It should be used as a quintessential tool to disperse knowledge. Their inclusion in the curriculum will be pivotal in ensuring a skillful and resourceful workforce being created. Compulsory internships being introduced as a part of the course work by many institutions is a much welcome step. You start learning to swim at the shallow end of the pool, to prepare yourself to eventually wade into the deeper end with confidence. Internships enable a person’s skills in the same way; by being the shallow end of the professional, corporate pool before moving into deeper water.


– Shreyas Nair

August 6, 2020