Internships are an essential part of the Ugandan university experience. They introduce students to the work environment while equipping them with practical skills to supplement theories taught in class.
As a new semester begins, how do recent interns, most being final year students evaluate their internships in light of personal career goals, beyond reports (on paper)?
At Joadah Consults offices in Bugolobi, nine students who interned at the engineering consultancy firm and their supervisor are seated in a boardroom to share reports of their internship. What I heard was very eye-opening to me.
Clare Musimenta is a final year student of Construction Management at Makerere University. Like her colleagues, she interned at Kayunga Hospital, one of the company’s construction sites. Her interest in construction began during her commute as a day scholar at Mengo Secondary School. “ I would see buildings go up. I wanted to be part of putting up something new,” she says. The internship program has shaped her budding career. “Being out of the city was great. The internship has taught me that the more you take on responsibilities and involve yourself, that will define how ready you will be for the field.”
To Alpha Kayiwa, a second-year diploma student of Architecture at St. Benedict Technical College Kisubi, the internship was an invaluable experience in terms of working in a consultancy project, especially in the health sector where his interest lies. He plans to volunteer with the firm after his studies.
Joan Amanyire, a student of Quantitative Surveying at Makerere University interned with the firm a year ago, at the construction site of Mulago Hospital’s Specialized Maternity and Neo-natal Ward. She learnt about the internship program through her contacts as vice president of Makerere Association of Surveying Students. She challenges university students to network more.
Male dominated industry
Whereas construction is a male-dominated field, five of the nine interns were female. Clare argues that women are more effective leaders and their success will attract more female talent into construction.
Joan says her family initially thought she shouldn’t be in construction because “it’s for men”. She also is the student representative of Women in Surveying, a professional body of women surveyors, whose mandate includes reaching out to schools to encourage especially female students to join the profession.
According to Patrick Gatre, an employee at Joadah Consults and head of the internship program, the selection is merit-based but gender is a consideration.
About the internship program
Joadah Consults accepts applications from students in specializations in or related to the engineering and construction industries every year. 66 students interned with them in 2018 in sites all over Uganda.
The company’s founder and CEO Joel Aita started the program in 2007 to build the confidence of interns, give them hands-on skills and all-around knowledge on the industry and trends after he realised poor job performance by many university graduates.
Patrick Gatre believes there is a disconnect between the theory taught in class and what happens in the field. He implores employers, especially those in the private sector to commit themselves to guide and support interns since they will, in turn, make up the competent workforce. His comments come in light of several internships that are less engaging and barely practical; the company seeks to make a contribution to changing that narrative.
Joadah Consults currently works in engineering consultancy in infrastructure projects in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Malawi.