The Growing Charm of Internship in IT Education

Internships provide students with a great way to learn and expand their knowledge within an industry. They enable students to come out of the comfort of their classrooms and step into the real world, often working as the key to unlock the door to their ambitions. In short, internships play quite a crucial role in making students industry-ready. This obviously applies to Information Technology (IT) students as well. 

Aashish Kumar Shrestha, product manager at F1 Soft Pvt Ltd, one of the country’s leading IT companies, explains it with the help of his own experience. “Internship opportunities at good companies are really important for students. Just a 10-week-long internship proved to be the key to unlock my career in today’s emerging sector of IT,” said Shrestha, in a recent conversation. Shrestha was studying Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Information Technology (BSc CSIT) at Kathford College of Engineering and Management in the capital when he got the internship opportunity at Brain Digit IT Solution, a growing IT company, back in 2014.

Shrestha’s hard work during the internship paid off. Right after the completion of his internship, Brain Digit hired him as an Associate Software QA Engineer. He was promoted to a Senior Software QA Engineer at the company before he joined F1 Soft, his current employer, as its product manager. 

IT Programmes and Internship

The number of students opting for IT-related courses has been rising in the country. However, neither all IT courses being taught in the country have incorporated internship as a part of the course nor do all IT colleges send their students to companies for internships.

According to the data provided by the University Grants Commission, there are more than 66 colleges offering IT related programmes like Bachelor of Information Technology(BIT),Bachelor of Computer Application (BCA), Bachelor of Computer Information System (BCIS), Bachelor of Information Management (BIM), Masters of Science in Computer Science and Information (MSc. CSIT),BE Electronics and Communication, Master Of Science In Information System Engineering etc. But, sadly internship is embedded as a part of the course only in just a few IT programmes like BSc CSIT, BIM and BCA. 

Likewise, the evaluation of IT internship is different from those of management courses. IT internships in the country are being collectively evaluated by the college, externals examiner from the university concerned and the company providing the internship. The intern’s achievements are analysed based on the demonstration and presentation of the skills learnt during the internship with evidences certified by the internship-providing company.

IT Internship Trends

Thames International College in the capital has been sending its BIM students to different companies for internships for more than a decade now. The students are required to complete a two-month internship in the eighth semester of the four-year programme. According to Arpan Upadhyay, head of the Thames’ School of Business and Technology, the college’s internship programme has three credits of total 100 marks – 25 percent evaluation is done by the companies providing the internship, another 25 percent by external evaluators and the remaining 50 percent by the college, based on the internship report. “Almost 40 percent of our students are being hired right after their internship,” says Upadhyay.

Kathford College of Engineering and Management in Kathmandu which launched the BSc CSIT programme in 2007 started sending its students to different companies for their internships from 2010. BSc CSIT students need to do AN internship of six credits or 200 marks for a minimum 180 hours (10 weeks) in their final semester of the four-year programme. According to Er Suwas Karki, head of the Department of Computer Science and IT at the college, EB Pearls, a sister organisation of Kathford, sponsors 50 percent scholarship for its few female IT students for the BSc CSIT programme to encourage female participation in the IT sector.

Karki shares that the college has collaborated with seven companies including EB Pearls fore-commerce, business analytics, mobile computing; Access World Tech Pvt Co for cloud computing under BCA programme and Sastra Network Solution Inc.It is also offering the BCA+ course, focusing on four specific categories of IT like cloud computing, e-commerce, business analytic and mobile computing. The Evaluation of the internship is done through proposal defense at the beginning, a mid-term defense after two months of the internship and the final-term defense after the completion of the internship. 

Both Thames and Kathford are preparing to send their students studying in the seventh semester of BCA to different companies for internship. Isligton College, affiliated to London Metropolitan University, UK,has been providing specialized bachelor’s level IT programmes since 2011. The college offers BSc (Hons) Multimedia Technologies, BSc (Hons) Computing, BSc (Hons) Computer Networking and IT Security and MSc IT and Applied Security. According to Rohit Panday, head of the IT School of the college, the university has designed a separate module (subject) for internship- Work Related Learning (WRL) of 15 credits (at least three months) for BSc (Hons) in Computing and Computer Networking and IT Security while a long WRL of 30 credits (minimum six months) for BSc Multimedia Technology in the last semester of the three-year programmes.

Panday says that the students of BSc (Hons) Computing are approaching IT companies like F1 Soft, Brain Digit. Likewise,the students of Multimedia Technologies approach different media houses like AP1 and Olive media for internships. 

Most students of BSc (Hons) Computer Networking and IT Security prefer Subisu Cable Net Pvt Ltd to other networking companies. “Sixty percent of the interns are getting recruited by the internship-providing companies,” says Panday. 

The British College, too, has been teaching BSc (Hons) Computing and MSc IT in partnership with Leeds Beckett University, the UK. Though internship is not mandatory for these programmes, the college still sends its students to various companies for internships, according to Internship Placement Officer, Bikram Thapa.According to Thapa, the college has collaborated with seven IT companies, publication house and cable network service providers so far and is in the process of collaborating with 10 more companies for internships.

Companies’ Expectations

Different domains of IT sectors like software development, system administration, network administration, hardware engineering, tech support, database administration, web development, cloud computing, project management, software testing are becoming vibrant as the country is moving towards digitalisation. The companies previously relying on manual work, too, are turning to digitalisation. In this situation, IT companies and the IT departments of other institutions look for different kinds of IT skills in IT graduates they choose to hire, according to the nature of the companies.

Data Hub Pvt Ltd, which claims to be the country’s first data center of global standards, is providing co-location, premium data-center services, networking and cloud computing services to different banking and financial institutions, enterprises, information communication technology(ICT)companies, INGOs, NGOs and corporate houses. The company expects the competencies and skills of Linux, window server, networking and virtualization in its IT interns. According to the manager of Data Hub, Deepak Adhikari, the company prefers to recruit academic manpower with engineering background in IT and those having completed professional courses like the Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA). “We have found that half the interns coming here are already trained in professional courses besides completing their academic courses. So, it is not difficult to give them practical knowledge during the internship,” says Adhikari.

Likewise, Namaste Infotech Pvt Ltd is a company providing managed IT services and solutions and web solutions. Santosh Acharya, assistant manager at the company, says that the company provides paid internships to IT students who wish to enter the professional Network Security, Network Solution, Managed Wi-Fi Solution, System Design and Implementation and managed IT services. Till date, Namaste Info Tech has provided internship platforms to around 50 IT students of which 25 percent got recruited in the company, shares Acharya. 

Another IT company, Cloud Himalaya, which provides services like security system, cloud computing and networking, among others, also expects the interns to have the knowledge of specific courses in IT such as network system, security and cloud computing skills. “We prefer well-trained students,” says Niranjan Baral, technology director at the company, which hires over 60 percent of its interns. Though IT companies are straight forward in seeking IT students with specific IT skills and courses, the IT departments of other organisations like BFIs, NGOs, INGOs, hospitals, etc expect the interns to have the basic knowledge of the respective sector besides the IT skills. Raju Kumar Sahukhala, IT Head at Ajod Insurance Ltd, says, “IT interns in this sector are required to learn the terminologies of the insurance sector while learning the separate and lengthy process of security software, virtual private networks (VPNs) used in insurances companies etc.”

Problems and Solutions

Most IT colleges, students and professionals admit that the courses of IT programmes in the country that provide only basic ideas on IT are not sufficient to deliver a quality human resource expected by the IT sector and IT units of different organisations. Though the scope of IT is growing wider in the country, the companies are not getting qualified manpower with the required expertise from the IT academies. Rohit Panday shares, “There is a skill gap between the expectations and deliveries in IT internship practices in Nepal.”To fill this gap and support the internship practice effectively, a few colleges like Kathford and Islington have already started providing extra professional trainings, courses and guest lectures to their IT students even though these are not required by the syllabus. 

Additionally, the syllabi of courses like BCA are being revised. Companies providing internships to IT students say that the students opting for an internship be aware about specialisation in the IT sector and professional courses and training should be a part of such courses. Likewise, the IT colleges sending their students to different companies for internships aspire to see more such companies which are willing to accept students as interns.