Students have an opportunity to look closely at career options on a practical level.

FOR the first time, in 2008, the Wits Business School will offer an internship elective for fulltime MBA students.

The internship elective option emerged as part of a review of the MBA curriculum conducted in the light of trends at other leading schools at home and abroad. An internship offers a student the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired academically in real business situations, says Charisse Drobis of the Wits Business School careers resource centre.

Wits Business School academic director Viveka Christierson says the school, headed by Prof Mthuli Ncube, tends to get a lot of professionals moving from their field into business, or incorporating business into their professional practices. The curriculum review concluded that an internship programme, akin to the American model, would build “a very good bridge”.

“Seeing that for more than 15 years we have offered very successfully a two-month internship to our fulltime postgraduate diploma in management (PDM) students, we thought: why not offer an internship as an option to our fulltime MBA students?

“At the end of their six fundamental and 10 core courses, MBA students can choose from a wide range of electives,” she says. “This internship is a choice — it is not compulsory — and would take the place of two electives.”

The PDM internships constitute the academic third quarter (eight weeks) when students, many with little or no working experience, take on projects and put academic theory into practice at top management consulting, finance and banking, health-care and fast-moving consumer goods companies.

They might, for instance, be asked to design and implement a change-management strategy, implement a transformation framework, design a training programme, conduct stakeholder and competitor analyses, design and implement marketing campaigns or new-product launches, or research, analyse and report back on customer needs.

Similar challenges would apply at a Master’s level of function and theory, says Christierson. “Clever employers use interns on really important but short-term projects. Getting somebody who is seriously smart to come in, let’s say, as an internal consultant and deliver on a project is a great asset.”

It’s an opportunity, adds Drobis, for students to look closely at career options at a practical level. “T hey are able to derive an understanding of the organisation’s principles and management structures. “

“It’s also an opportunity,” says Christierson, “for an employer to bring someone into the organisation for a short time, to look at the cultural fit and see if this is someone they might want to recruit.”

The new internship elective programme will be launched next year when fulltime MBA students are considering their electives in the third and fourth quarters of study. After exams in November, they would start two- to three-month internships in early 2009.

Source: Business Day & Mike Holmes

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