OJT season: Should student interns be compensated?

Francis Rafael D. Obenza /THE FLAME

THE RINGING of an alarm echoed through her house one rainy June morning. It was a reminder that the internship season – a rough preview of what awaits her after she earns her degree – has begun.

Incoming fourth-year journalism student Nicole Agcaoili woke up to report for duty, prepared for another day of her work-from-home internship.

As an editorial intern for news website Inquirer.net, Agcaoili quickly realized the differences between internships and four-cornered academic learning.

“There are no excuses for mistakes in internships [as] you have to learn to accept criticism because it is inevitable,” she said.

The internship set-up was a bit different for Communication Arts student Clarissa Lumanog, who is having her on-the-job training (OJT) at Township Marketing, a company based in Muntinlupa. She was accepted at a company that met her ideal work environment. Having to report on-site was also a bonus for her.

While Agcaoili and Lumanog have started their internship, incoming Legal Management senior Gilene Platero just began the application process and is still waiting to be interviewed. She recently attended an orientation, hoping that she will finally begin one of the crucial stages of being a college student.

Different interns in different phases of internship—all with the same goal of catching a glimpse of what is waiting for them outside the University’s walls.

Student interns, like regular employees, work several hours a day until they complete the required 200 hours.

Similar to employees, student-interns work in regular hours. In exchange for their labor, they are gaining experience that will prepare them for the industry they want to enter into.

But is this compensation enough?

Mutually beneficial

The guidelines set by the Commission on Higher Education Implementing (CHED) does not prohibit or require monetary compensation to student interns, leaving it up to the higher education institutions and the host training establishments to decide on the matter.

Interdisciplinary Studies chair Asst. Prof. John Manuel R. Kliatchko said allowances would benefit students as internships come with a cost. Interns’ compensation does not have to reach minimum wage, but it should be enough to pay for meals and transportation, he added.

“Not that we are being too ‘allowance-conscious,’ but getting paid for a day’s work can have its psychological benefit,” Kliatchko told The Flame.

Behavioral Science major Christiana Bernabe shared this sentiment as a student who works eight hours a day like a regular employee.

For Bernabe, OJT is a two-way street where students learn from companies and companies benefit from services rendered by students.

“Student interns should be given the proper compensation, even just daily allowances,” she said.

Kliatchko advised students to prioritize the quality of companies that will train them, noting that internship provides first-hand experience of concepts only discussed in classrooms. 

More than money

Nica Narvarte, human resource manager of advertising agency Seven A.D, said an internship would help students determine their career path, which is not necessarily the path they are currently on.

Although Narvarte believes that hard work should be rewarded for what it’s worth, not all companies that offer an internship program could pay interns.

However, companies are more willing and capable of sharing their knowledge with interns, equipping them with experience after finishing their program.

“I feel like an internship is like school too. You pay the school so you will learn, rather than the school paying you to learn,” Narvarte said.

Agcaoili echoed this, believing that students should not be compensated monetarily as their output should come from their motivation and not pay.

Agcaoili said that those who undergo internships are fortunate to have a platform to practice their craft before setting foot into the professional world. Equating internships with monetary gain would contradict its purpose, she added.

Lumanog expressed hope that allowances would be provided at the very least since students are qualified to receive them. She acknowledged though that the opportunity to experience life as an employee was enough for undergraduates like her.

Kliatchko said while companies cannot be expected to provide allowances to interns, the appreciation of one’s hard work “materially adds value to the work itself.”

“For a brief period, they become socialized to various types of organizational cultures, management styles, communication patterns, and even work conflicts and labor issues. In other words, concepts tackled in their class discussions become real,” he said.

Kliatchko cited the need for the University’s internship program to look closely at companies’ actual training plans and ensure that the learning outcomes are achieved.

He said educational institutions should keep in touch with the companies in observing the performance of student interns so that the curriculum can be redesigned to align with the industries’ needs. F Katrizha Caye de Leon

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