Internship programmes have been applauded by some as being very instrumental in giving continuing university students a feel of the workplace.
In comparison, graduate training, a-not-very-popular one has been attested to as being a crucial training opportunity in the careers of fresh graduates and those at the peak of their university studies.
“In our context, it is the kind of training where companies and/or persons volunteer to take on fresh talent from university for further practical training in their respective professions. It is also a bridge through which fresh graduates access the real world of work as employees also tap into fresh energies,” Francis Muzoora, a career guidance counselor shares.
So, if you are a fresh graduate but still stuck with the ‘brown envelop’ or looking forward to finishing your final semester, this could be exactly what you need.
Tapping into opportunities
For Zakiat Nakabuuka, it was while going through a WhatsApp group chat that a graduated training opportunity popped up.
Uganda National Association of Building and Civil Engineering Contractors, (UNABCEC) was giving fresh graduates and those yet to graduate an opportunity to get graduate training with its member companies.
After reading through, this sounded like something that would suit her perfectly. She was just done with her Bachelor of land surveying at Kyambogo University and awaiting graduation.
“I had always been interested in engineering survey, so when I saw this advert, I saw it as an opportunity that would help me explore my passion, and put it in practice. The application was online, and the requirements included presenting a copy of my university Identity Card, National ID, and my results testimonial,” she explains.
Towards the end of an academic year like Mike Serunkuuma the projects officer, UNABCEC explains, they invite applications from eligible finalists/fresh graduates for graduate training opportunities. A database of successfully shortlisted applicants is then availed to member companies to select candidates of their choice.
“We encourage our members to support this programme by offering graduate training opportunities to these graduates,” he says.
After three months, Nakabuuka received a call from the managing director IBB International, welcoming her for interviews. After this, she further received a call as one of the people shortlisted for the training.
Just like her goal had been, she did engineer surveying during the training and though there were trainees in other fields like civil engineering, quantity surveying, all these were under a supervisor – an engineer with a site agent to give them guidance and feedback about their work.
Nakabuuka explains that, during this time, she came to learn that sometimes what is taught in school can be different from what is in the field.
“I was initiated into the world of work and there is so much I learned; like preparing bidding documents, and other field activities because I got time to be both in the field and in office.
At the time, , the company had an ongoing construction project of Entebbe Airport road and with that, I was able to explore how issues in the field are handled, what I am expected to execute among others.”
Additionally, she learned how things in organisations work, matters of hierarchy and how to work and communicate as a team on a project. The training lasted three months.
“I think it opened doors to where I am today. This graduate training opportunity gave me a place to work, even before I graduated from university and I was able to acquire experience and competencies and meet with people I probably wouldn’t have never got to meet. All these were instrumental in getting me to my next career step and getting into employment,” she shares.
Nakabuuka is currently a practicing Engineering Surveyor.
Why graduate training
Muzoora further encourages that the importance of graduate training cannot be over emphasized. It not only has the power to link new talent to different workplaces but the other advantage is that the trainee is able to get the support they need as they are starting their career.
“Often, people in the work place are willing to help out the trainee, from the simplest tasks to more complex ones with little or no judgement. It is because everyone will know that you need support since you are new to everything unlike in cases when you come in as a fellow employee that everyone expects to know everything, or at least most of the things,” Muzoora believes.
It gives graduates a chance to make mistakes but improve themselves, allowing them to unlearn, to learn and to relearn.
Muzoora further shares that there can also be a lot of other opportunities that may come alongside the graduate training. “At times, companies/organisations have more training sessions, programmes and other development opportunities set aside for their graduate trainees.
The point is, don’t see graduate training as a single opportunity. It can often come along with more other opportunities that all provide a basis for career growth,” he says.
Sounding the same message, Catherine Akol, a career coach adds that another of the advantages of graduate training is mentorship. “The programmes are often designed with trainees under mentors/ supervisors that literally take them under their wings. These are usually people with more experience and expertise in the field and there is so much graduates can learn from them.
The continued work relationship with mentors, real time feedback from them, correction, guidance and getting to share space and ideas with them are all things that fresh graduates can learn from, to give them an edge compared to someone who never received such mentorship,” she believes.
In addition, Akol shares that graduate training is another place one can discover their passions, and weaknesses. This is because trainees are often given chance to go around different departments of the workplace and try out different things.
“One is then able to find what they are most motivated about within the whole system, where they need to improve, and that definitely makes them better in their careers. Additionally, this helps widen their horizons and competencies since new skills can be learned,” says Akol.
Furthermore, Serunkuuma notes that these early experiences give graduates an important stepping stone into their career but also helps produce the right professionals for different industries. “Forty six per cent of applicants placed in our programme, 30 per cent of these have been permanently employed after the successful training.”
In some organisations, graduate training lasts between two to three months while in others, it can run between one to two years. Again, depending on the organisation, some employers give their trainees an allowance yet others may not.
In conclusion, Nakabuuka encourages graduates and finalists to take and make use of every career opportunity that comes their way.
Michael Bwambale, a graduate of Science in Construction Management from Makerere University is currently undergoing his graduate training at Semwo Construction Company Ltd as a construction manager.
Currently, he is working on the construction project of Jinja District headquarters at Kagoma, Buwenge Town council, Jinja District.
He started his training on January 4, 2020 and two months down the road now, he can’t be more excited about what he is doing.
“There has been enough professionalism and I am surely given enough opportunities to learn and show my capabilities. Some of the skills I have acquired so far include communication skills, risk management skills, organisation and leadership skills, since I am in a leadership position and yes, I highly believe this is a big step in my career. It has given me the exposure that I dreamt about,” he confesses.
As he goes through this training that will go on for one and a half years, Bwambale shares that he is under a supervisor - a site engineer, who always assesses his performance, depending on his output.