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Impact of internship programs on professional and personal development of business students: a case study from Pakistan

Abstract

This study aims to evaluate the impact of internship programs on the professional as well as on personal development and skills of business students in Pakistan. The data of the study consisted of 800 undergraduating business students of 4-year degree programs from 15 universities of Pakistan. The study used structured questionnaire (35 close-ended questions assessed using 5-point Likert scale) comprised of six parts: Part I: Demographic information, Part II: Reasons for participation in internship, and Part III to VI: Assessment of information related to professional and personal growth and skills. The study employed descriptive analysis to evaluate demographic information and central tendencies of the responses. Furthermore, scale measurement analysis is used to check distribution normality of study data and reliability of the questionnaire. The results of the study depict the impact of internship programs on the professional and personal growth and skills of the business students of Pakistan.

Introduction

The change of life stages from a student to a professional is not always very simple. Students have to face many challenges when they enter into professional life. They have to adjust themselves according to the professional environment by implementing their conceptual knowledge in the new world of work. Usually, business students use their skills and theoretical business knowledge in their first jobs [2, 44]. By integrating conceptual knowledge and training through academic internship programs, students can be facilitated to better implement their concepts at the workplace [62]. According to Gault et al. [23], academic internships are a bridge to link the theory and practice by taking part in supervised and scheduled work. These internship programs not only improve students personal skills but also polish their professional growth and experience. Today, educational institutes, students and business recruiters are well aware of the importance of internship programs [28, 1, 11, 30, 40]. Internship programs are the opportunities for educational institutes to upgrade the students enrollment and prepare their curriculum [9, 18, 32]. For students, internships are experience of practical work [50]. As companies prefer those business graduates who have required skills and practical knowledge [42], internships supply valuable employees and competent job applicants to the companies [15]. Internship programs enable students to get training during their course programs and save companies’ supervision and training costs by providing them trained employees [31].

Now the questions that come into the minds regarding internships are: Why internships are important? and Why business students do internships? The answer to every question related to internship programs is that they are short-term workplace practical experience which provide opportunities to the students to enter the job market during and after their undergraduation course programs [47]. Internships are excellent source of practical experience [19, 20, 22, 33, 51], learning team work [53], for polishing resumes [63], for building personal and professional relationships and for earning real money [16]. Oehlert et al. [49] stated that more attention should be paid on the internship programs to meet the needs of growing competitive job market. But what is the exact value of an internship program for business students, educational institutes and employers? Unfortunately, to answer this question not much quantitative or qualitative literature work is available.

We are living in the earlier stage of twenty-first century in a global world. In under developing countries like Pakistan, education system is still in improvement process. Here, although teachers are facilitated, they are not directed to enhance practical knowledge of their students with conceptual knowledge during a course program. Inappropriate teaching methodology may be one of the reasons due to which students find it difficult to implement conceptual knowledge in solving their daily lives problems. This problem can be solved with the help of internship programs. In Pakistan, it is supposed the internship programs would be beneficial and helpful to improve the performance of the faculty members and to enhance the workplace experience of the students during the course work of their degrees.

Purpose and objectives of the study

The main purpose of this study is to determine how much internship programs are beneficial for the undergraduating business students for their future career development, professional and personal growth. This study also aims to evaluate the impact of internship programs on the improvement of the professional and personal skills of business students of Pakistan after the completion of their internship period. The following objectives are set by the study in order to reach and achieve the purpose of the study:

  • To determine the background and rationale of engagement of business students in internship programs.

  • To determine the impact of internship programs on professional as well as personal growth and skills of the undergraduating business students.

  • To identify the strengths and weaknesses of internship programs existing in Pakistan.

Need and importance of the study

A large number of educational institutes are coming to the opinion that internship programs are an excellent source for career and professional preparation of the students. They provide work-related experience to the students. On the other hand, they make it easy for the companies to select flexible, experienced and highly qualified job applicants. So internship programs are rewarding to the students, educational institutes and employers [29, 52, 59]. This is the era of innovations and technological development and expansion. So it is necessary to grow such capabilities in the students that will assist them to deal with the modern world of work [25]. For this, there is a need to reform the educational system of Pakistan by improving teaching methods, curriculum development, involving more research and providing practical training to the students. Internship programs create a link between classroom concepts and real workplace experience. Students are the future of any country. It is the requirement of the time that if Pakistan wants to be a developed country, it should focus more on the practical training of the business students so that they can outperform in the real world of progress.

This detailed examination of internship programs is the prior research within Pakistan to evaluate the impact of internship on career preparation of the business students as well as on their professional and personal growth. This study is important because it supplies valuable recommendations to the companies, educational institutes and students regarding the advancement of internship programs to improve personal skills, professional growth, leadership skills and work-related experience of the Pakistani students.

Theoretical framework

This section deals with the explanation of the theoretical framework, review of the prior literature and conceptual framework of the study.

Social learning theory is related to this study priorly developed by Bandura [4] and extended by Lave and Wenger [39]. Social learning theory is a cognitive process that is set on the notion of changes in beliefs, concepts and knowledge and improves professional and personal learning process through participation in real work environment. The motive of the present study is to evaluate the impact of internship programs on the professional and personal growth of the business students of Pakistan.

Review of the literature

Work-related learning and practical training in the form of internship programs are vital for business students for their personal and professional development and to build their strong connections with the leading business organizations. However, most of the research works until recently have focused on the advancement of students knowledge and advantages of an internship program after its completion [57]. There is limited amount of research work on how internship programs assist in professional and personal growth and skills of business students especially in underdeveloped countries like Pakistan. Much attention is paid on knowledge of facts in formal educational classes. If a student works hard, pays attention in class and learns the classroom material by heart, he will definitely pass the examinations [3]. In formal classes, the major focus is on what students know, but in an internship program, the major focus is on what students do. Ronnestad and Skovholts ([53], pp. 20–22) stated that practicality of knowledge depends upon what students already know and how they associate their information with the situations they face in the real world of the work. Raskin ([51], p. 18) indicated through an empirical research that there is a huge gap between the linkage of classroom knowledge and practical work. Students and academic faculty members pay very little attention on gaining full benefit from internship opportunities. Sometimes, students just observe the internship work environment without applying their classroom knowledge to the situations they encounter there, and sometimes, educational advisors or faculty members do not properly guide their students to get full advantage from the internship opportunities [21]. Harrison and Kennedy [27] believed that an internship program can be made successful for students through proper recognition of internship plans and relevant industry participants, picking out motivational student interns, internship program evaluation, monitoring and feedback. They also identified that educational institutes and academic advisors should play a vital role in the implementation of an internship program.

Many previous studies have proved that internship programs improve the academic and professional performance of the business students who follow an internship program during or after the completion of their institutional degree [17, 36, 58]. Internship programs provide the opportunity to the business students to gain fruitful experience by implementing their classroom concepts in the real work settings [8, 26, 45]. Internship experience then has an impact on the professional growth and success of business students and helps them to receive good financial earnings in their first job [13, 24, 37]. Students also learn required skills acquired for their professional success [6, 38]. Moreover, internship helps business students to develop good personal qualities and working habits as well as appreciable confidence level [1, 24, 41, 55, 60]. Internship opportunities make the students able to receive high-quality job offers sooner [38, 43, 54]. They help them to directly interact with corporate professionals and thus build a strong network for their first job [24, 56]. But different studies have shown that to achieve all the above-mentioned advantages related to internship, appropriate feedback is needed from both the corporate supervisor and the institutional supervisor of the student. As feedback is considered as a vital element in upgrading and maintaining the performance, quality of internship programs and professional learning of the business students, a proper feedback should be provided by company and academic supervisor to check the intern’s progress [12, 34, 46].

Corporates usually favor the job applicants with work experience and practical knowledge. Therefore, they sometimes have an eye on their interns to select them as their future employees [5, 7, 14, 24, 43]. In this way, companies also save their hiring and training costs [5]. Interns provide part-time help and innovative ideas and exchange other knowledge with the business firms [5, 61, 64]. On the other hand, the major disadvantages of internships for the organizations are that they have to provide guidance, extensive support, training and feedback to the interns at every stage in order to make them productive for the organizations [10].

Furthermore, internship programs help educational institutions to get reputation by strengthening their bonds with business world, availability of research grants, receive positive feedback from corporates on their curriculum and increase job opportunities for their students [5, 14, 24, 42, 43, 64]. Although the existing literature provides a good overview of the benefits of internship programs for the business students, there is a lack of such empirical research in the context of underdeveloped countries like Pakistan. This study will give the overview of internship pros to the business students of Pakistan.

Hypotheses

The hypotheses of the study are as follows:

H 1

Internship programs have an impact on the professional development of the business students.

H 2

Internship programs have an impact on the professional skills of the business students.

H 3

Internship programs have an impact on the personal growth of the business students.

H 4

Internship programs have an impact on the personal capabilities of the business students.

Methods

This section of the study elaborates methods of data collection, population and sampling procedures, analysis of data and the research design. This study was submitted to and approved by Advanced Studies and Research Committee of Government College University.

Collection of data

The study collected primary data from the final year business students of 4-year degree programs who did internships of 2–4 months from 15 prestigious educational institutes of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, namely Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Islamabad; Bahria University, Islamabad, National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad; Air University, Islamabad; Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad; University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore; UCP, Lahore; COMSAT, Lahore; Punjab University, Lahore; Lahore University of Management Sciences; Iqra University, Karachi; Karachi Institute of Economics and Technology; Aga Khan University, Karachi; Institute of Business Management, Karachi; and Hamdard University, Karachi. “Appendix A” further shows percentage and frequency analysis of these universities. The data were collected in May and June 2019. In total, 800 questionnaires were distributed comprising of Part I: Demographic information, Part II: Reasons for participation in internship, Part III–Part VI: Assessment of information regarding professional and personal growth and skills improvement with 35 close-ended questions. The questionnaires were distributed and collected both physically and electronically. “Appendix B” shows sample of questionnaire.

Population and sampling procedures

The fourth-year business students of Pakistani universities were considered as the population of the study. As a large number of students pass out (90,682 business students as per current report of Higher Education Commission of Pakistan), sample of the study consisted of 800 business students from 15 Pakistani universities.

Methodology

This study is a quantitative research, but in order to better comprehend strengths and weaknesses of internship programs in Pakistan, some qualitative research elements were also utilized. The study employed both descriptive and statistical analyses to evaluate the impact of internship programs on the professional and personal growth and skills of Pakistani business students. Descriptive technique of the study consisted of percentage and frequency analysis of demographic characteristics of the participants and central tendency measurement of their responses, whereas statistical technique comprised of scale analysis including normality and reliability tests. Reliability of the questionnaire was tested using Cronbach’s alpha, and normality was evaluated employing univariate and multivariate normality of skewness and kurtosis. Structured questionnaire technique was used, comprising of six parts, i.e., Part I: Demographic information, Part II: Reasons for participation in internship, Part III–Part VI: Assessment of information regarding professional and personal growth and skills improvement with 35 close-ended questions. Each variable of the questionnaire was assessed using 5-point Likert scale, where 1 is strongly disagree, 2 is disagree, 3 is neutral, 4 is agree and 5 is strongly agree.

Results

This section consists of empirical findings and their estimations. This section is divided into two parts, i.e., descriptive analysis and scale analysis.

Descriptive analysis

This section highlights the demographic characteristics of the respondents and central tendency measurement of their responses.

Demographic characteristics

This section of the study elaborates the findings of two parts of the questionnaire, i.e., demographic information and reasons for participation in an internship program. Tables 1 and 2 indicate the findings.

Table 1 Percentage and frequency distribution of demographic characteristics
Table 2 Percentage and frequency distribution of reasons for participation in internship

The results show that among 800 respondents, 744 (93%) were 26 or less years of age and 56 (7%) were in between 27 and 30 years of age. 396 (49.5%) were males and 404 (50.5%) were females. 180 (22.5%) were students of accounting and finance program, 244 (30.5%) were from BBA (Hons) degree, 99 (12.4%) were from accounting (Hons) degree, and 277 (34.6%) were B.Com (Hons) students. 177 (22.1%) were working as an intern in finance departments, 189 (23.6%) in marketing departments, 80 (10%) in human resource departments, 144 (18%) in product departments, 190 (23.8%) in customer relationship departments, and 20 (2.5%) in other departments of different business organizations. 492 (61.5%) interns participated in an internship program for 6 or less weeks, 298 (37.3%) worked for 7–16 weeks, and 10 (1.2%) worked for 17–25 weeks.

These results depict that 10 (1.2%) respondents did internship in spring semester, 759 (94.9%) did in summer, 9 (1.1%) participated in an internship program in fall semester, 12 (1.5%) worked as an intern in spring/summer semester, and 10 (1.2%) did internship in summer/fall semester. 710 (88.7%) were interested to work in the field of business, and 90 (11.3%) were not interested at all in business field before their internship. 190 (23.7%) respondents participated in an internship program as it was a departmental course requirement, 44 (5.5%) did internship because advisor recommended it as an elective course, and 566 (70.8%) participated in an internship to gain practical experience. 177 (22.1%) considered that internship is important to complete academic credit, 289 (36.1%) thought that an internship is important as it links classroom concepts with real work environment, 258 (32.3%) believed that it provides direction toward independent life, and 76 (9.5%) considered its importance for purposes other than stated above. 639 (79.9%) participants agreed that their internships helped them in obtaining their current jobs, whereas 161 (20.1%) lacked this belief. 569 (71.1%) agreed that internship programs influence the future job promotion, whereas 231 (28.9%) did not agree. 610 (76.2%) received incentives from companies while being in internship, while 190 (23.7%) did not receive such incentives. 455 (56.9%) received award while being in internship, while 345 (43.1%) did not receive any award.

Measurement of central tendencies

This part deals with the findings of mean and standard deviation for the items of Part III to Part VI of the questionnaire. Table 3 shows the results.

Table 3 Measurement of central tendencies

These results show central tendencies of the responses for all the items of Part III to Part VI of the questionnaire by 800 participants of the study. The highest mean and highest standard deviation (SD) for professional development (PD) are 3.3451 and 0.3217, respectively. The lowest mean and lowest SD for PD are 2.9261 and 0.0235, respectively. The range of mean 2.9261–3.3451 depicts that responses of business students are moving from “disagree” to “agree” for all the items of PD. The lowest and highest means for professional skills (PS) are 3.7129 and 4.3127, while the lowest SD and highest SD are 0.0217 and 0.6133, respectively. The mean range 3.7129–4.3127 shows positive responses of business students for all the items of PS. The lowest mean and lowest SD for personal growth (PG) are 4.1209 and 0.4259, whereas the highest mean and highest SD are 4.5129 and 0.7521, respectively. The mean range 4.1209–4.5129 indicates that business students “agreed” with all the items of PG. The lowest and highest means for personal capabilities (PC) are 3.7121 and 4.6713, the while lowest SD and highest SD are 0.2960 and 0.7511, respectively. The mean range 3.7121–4.6713 shows positive responses of business students for all the items of PC.

Scale measurement

This section elaborates normality and reliability tests results, evaluated to check the normality of distribution of the data of the study and reliability of the questionnaire.

Multivariate normality test

The acceptable skewness range is ± 3 with acceptable kurtosis range of ± 10 [35]. The data of the study will be normally distributed if values of kurtosis and skewness fall within this range. Table 4 shows the results.

Table 4 Skewness and kurtosis test

These results show that critical values of kurtosis range from − 1.6231 (PD6) to 1.6337 (PS6), whereas critical values of skewness range from − 0.7176 (PG5) to 0.7621 (PC5). The results indicate that all the values of kurtosis and skewness fall in the acceptable range; therefore, the data of the study are normally distributed.

Reliability test

The reliability of the questionnaire is checked using Cronbach’s coefficient alpha. Nunnally and Bernstein [48] described that if Cronbach’s coefficient alpha is above 0.70, then questionnaire becomes reliable. Table 5 shows the results.

Table 5 Reliability analysis

The results represent that values of Cronbach’s coefficient alpha range from 0.7113 to 0.8239. As critical values fall in acceptable range, the questionnaire of the study is reliable.

Discussion

Strengths and weaknesses of internship programs in Pakistan

Comments of the business respondents suggest the following key points about the strengths of the internship programs in Pakistan: (1) Almost all business schools are focusing to encourage their students to gain practical experience through internships; (2) viva voce of students is conducted after the completion of their internship period in order to evaluate their practical experience; (3) government of Pakistan is offering different internship programs at provincial level to fill the vacant job positions with right job applicants; and (4) as companies prefer their interns as their future employees, this encourages students to participate in internship programs.

The following weaknesses are suggested by the comments of the respondents: (1) There is a lack of coordination between company and academic supervisors; (2) only selected assignments are given to the students by the companies with not much encouraging environment to ask what students want; and (3) proper feedback is not provided by the firms to their interns and their academic supervisors.

Policy implications

Internship programs link classroom knowledge with the workplace realities and provide an experimental experience to the students and enable them to make their place in the dynamic job market of this modern era. The present study will help and encourage the business students of Pakistan to focus more on gaining experimental knowledge from real world of the work so that they can easily get their first job and future job promotions. It will also assist business schools to develop proper strategies and curriculum for the promotion of internship programs so that besides theoretical knowledge, practical knowledge can also be provided to the business students during the graduation. It will also help to the companies to offer effective internship programs, training and learning environment to their interns. In this way, they can reduce their recruitment and training costs to the new employees.

Future recommendations

Future research can be conducted gathering firms and business schools perceptions about the internship programs. Future studies can also be conducted by comparing internship programs of different countries.

Conclusion

The study aimed to evaluate the impact of internship programs on the professional and personal development and skills of the business students of Pakistan. The data of the study comprised of 800 undergraduating business students of 4-year degree programs from 15 Pakistani universities. The study got responses from the participants using structured questionnaire technique consisting of six parts, i.e., Part I: Demographic information; Part II: Reasons for participation in internship; Part III–Part VI: Assessment of information regarding professional and personal growth and skills improvement of the business students. Each item of the questionnaire (35 close-ended questions) was assessed using 5-point Likert scale. The study employed descriptive analysis to evaluate demographic information and measured central tendencies using mean and standard deviation to evaluate the nature of the responses of the participants. Furthermore, scale measurement analysis was made to check the normality of distribution of the study data and reliability of the questionnaire.

The results of central tendency measurement indicate “disagree to agree,” “positive” and “agreed” responses of the participants for all the items of the questionnaire. Normality test results show that critical values of kurtosis range from − 1.6231 to 1.6337, whereas critical values of skewness range from − 0.7176 to 0.7621. As critical values of kurtosis and skewness fall within the acceptable range, the data of the study are normally distributed. Moreover, reliability test results using Cronbach’s coefficient alpha indicate that all critical values of Cronbach’s alpha exceed 0.70, so the questionnaire of the study is reliable. The overall results depict that internship programs have an impact on the professional growth and skills of the business students of Pakistan, affecting their personal development, skills and capabilities. The results are consistent with English and Koeppen [17], Hall et al. [26], Gault et al. [24], Weible [64], McDonald et al. [42].

Availability of data and materials

The data will be provided on request.

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Acknowledgements

I verify that this article “Impact of internship programs on professional and personal development of business students: a case study from Pakistan” is my original work, has not received any prior publication and is not under consideration for publication elsewhere.

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Appendices

Appendix A

Frequency and percentage of demographic characteristic: universities

Variable (Universities) Frequency Percentage (%)
Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Islamabad 70 8.7
Bahria University, Islamabad 80 10
National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad 50 6.2
Air University, Islamabad 60 7.5
Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad 80 10
University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore 70 8.7
UCP, Lahore 80 10
COMSAT, Lahore 60 7.5
Punjab University, Lahore 50 6.2
Lahore University of Management Sciences 40 5
Iqra University, Karachi 40 5
Karachi Institute of Economics and Technology 30 3.7
Aga Khan University, Karachi 30 3.7
Institute of Business Management, Karachi 30 3.7
Hamdard University, Karachi 30 3.7
  1. Source: developed for the study

Appendix B

figurea
figureb

Part III: professional development

Please indicate your level of agreement with each of the following statements about internship impact. Please check the suitable response.

Items Questions Strongly disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly agree
PD1 My internship program changed me professionally 1 2 3 4 5
PD2 Internship program made clear my career goals 1 2 3 4 5
PD3 I have applied my classroom knowledge during my internship 1 2 3 4 5
PD4 Internship helped me to gain practical work experience in my field of interest 1 2 3 4 5
PD5 Internship helped me to identify the skills needed to get a job in my field of interest 1 2 3 4 5
PD6 I faced some problems to seek and accept work assignments during internship 1 2 3 4 5

Part IV: professional skills

Do you believe internship program contributed to your professional skills development? Please check the suitable response.

Items Questions Strongly disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly agree
PS1 Internship improved my communication and interpersonal team skills 1 2 3 4 5
PS2 It enhanced my decision making and problem solving skills 1 2 3 4 5
PS3 It improved my skills to work as a team 1 2 3 4 5
PS4 It enhanced my critical thinking 1 2 3 4 5
PS5 It improved my computer skills 1 2 3 4 5
PS6 It improved my skills in technical field of accounting and finance business 1 2 3 4 5

Part V: personal growth

Questions in this section deal with personal growth related to internship experiences. Please check the suitable response.

Items Questions Strongly disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly agree
PG1 Internship program made me mature professionally and personally 1 2 3 4 5
PG2 It changed my personal career goals 1 2 3 4 5
PG3 It positively changed my interest in accounting and finance related business 1 2 3 4 5
PG4 I developed a habit to accomplish my task before the set target after internship 1 2 3 4 5
PG5 My internship practically improved my classroom concepts 1 2 3 4 5
PG6 Internship changed my personal aspirations in some ways 1 2 3 4 5

Part VI: personal capabilities

Do you believe the following characteristics are positively influenced by internship program? Please check the suitable response.

Items Questions Strongly disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly agree
PC1 Internship improved my conscientiousness and ethics 1 2 3 4 5
PC2 It polished my habit to have a respect for people different from myself 1 2 3 4 5
PC3 It taught me how to learn 1 2 3 4 5
PC4 It improved my skills to manage my time and money 1 2 3 4 5
PC5 It improved my social relationships 1 2 3 4 5
PC6 It enhanced my initiative taking 1 2 3 4 5

Thank You Very Much!!!

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Anjum, S. Impact of internship programs on professional and personal development of business students: a case study from Pakistan. Futur Bus J 6, 2 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s43093-019-0007-3

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Keywords

  • Internship programs
  • Business students
  • Professional development
  • Personal growth
  • Pakistan