From medium-sized businesses to large multinationals, more and more organisations are recruiting entry-level positions with an eye to developing and grooming management candidates from the ground up. Two of the most popular recruitment methods for this purpose are internships and management trainee programmes.
Sometimes known as an industrial attachment or work placement programme, internships are, in essence, temporary work experience placements offered to undergraduates or fresh graduates by organisations in their industry or area of study.
One to three months is the normal length of an internship. During an internship, you will get the opportunity to learn on the job, gain actual work experience, impress potential bosses and get a head start in your career. You will also find out whether you are suited for that line of work.
Interns will usually be assigned work related to their specialisation, but some companies may rotate interns through different departments to give them experience in different roles.
Interns are usually not given many official tasks in their short stint, but their work experience is nevertheless supervised.
Interns are recruited from the ranks of first degree holders and penultimate and final year students. Academic references will be relied upon as a measure of the intern's knowledge of the field; however, employers will be looking for someone who can cope with the job, knows what he or she is talking about and can settle into the working environment comfortably, and this will come out in the interview.
The Hiring Process
Internship openings will generally be advertised in the media and on the company's website. The application and screening process may be similar to that of a permanent position, with at least one interview session.
Large corporations will have structured application processes lasting weeks or months, while small firms will be able to accommodate potential recruits at shorter notice - sometimes within 24 hours.
Compulsory work attachment programmes are almost always arranged by the university. Note that some universities may also have special arrangements with particular companies, which could mean anything from a course director's word into an HR manager's ear to preferential status, or even guaranteed entry. Therefore, you should also consult your department before sending in a potentially unnecessary application.
Remuneration for internships can range from nothing at all, to an hourly rate, to a nominal stipend. However, official work attachment programmes that are a part of a university course may be graded and counted towards the qualification, depending upon the course. For example, accredited British engineering honours degrees require some kind of "workshop practice" placement to complete the qualification. This is usually an intensive one- or two-week course organised by the university.
Many organisations use their internship programmes as platforms to recruit management trainees. When the internship ends, outstanding interns may find themselves offered an official position with the same company upon graduation.
Management Trainee Programmes
Management trainees may also be known as graduate trainees or graduate apprentices. In a management trainee programme, the company is prepared to invest time and money in grooming them for higher-level positions.
Programme length will vary from company to company but is usually one to two years. Thus the entry requirements and screening process will be slightly more stringent compared to those for interns.
Often management trainee positions are structured training courses to provide the young graduate with the necessary skills to perform his or her job.
In most programmes, trainees will be rotated through several if not all departments in the company, giving both employee and trainee the chance to assess which department the trainee is best suited for. Outstanding trainees are frequently singled out for further training or fast-track advancement.
The trainee will often be supervised closely (at first) by a more senior employee, who will school the recruit in the fundamentals of the job. Some companies also run mentorship schemes, with new recruits gaining periodic access to senior executives or even board members, who monitor progress and make sure the new hire is receiving appropriate training.
Depending on your discipline, a programme may also start guiding you through the first steps to professional accreditation.
Most management trainee programmes require that the applicant possess a first degree from a reputable university.
Applicants will be subjected to a rigorous screening process that will usually comprise interviews and assessment centres (tests to determine the applicants' abilities and functional skills). The company is essentially recruiting future managers, so they will take every precaution.
Positions are open to fresh graduates or final-year undergrads. With so many people at a similar level of experience going for a relatively few amount of jobs, intern or industrial placement work will be crucial. Jobseekers still in university should be looking to apply as soon as their final year commences. The most sought-after vacancies will be filled long before you sit your finals.
In general, management trainees are full-time, salaried employees for the duration of their programme, complete with benefits. At the end of the programme, if all goes well, they will be permanently assigned to a department position with their salary adjusted to be commensurate with their experience.
More than this, however, they will be fully equipped with the institutional knowledge to take on any role within the company.