//vol.13-1 Youth speak
Henson says getting work experience should be about “learning how to build workplace relationships,” and that’s not easy in a virtual setting.
Stella thinks it is easier and cheaper to learn online “but the real experience of working would be missing.”
Reginald is wary of being exploited. “Some student interns are given mindless grunt work,” he points out, bringing to mind the stereotype of a young intern making the coffee and operating the paper shredder, but this doesn’t happen if they work remotely.
Brian points out that in virtual internships, students may lose focus because they are not being directly supervised. “As a result, they can be less efficient and the internship is less effective.”
Rana says written instructions for tasks to be done at home can be confusing unless a real person is available for clarification, but she appreciates one unexpected bonus. “Every participant in a virtual internship should get equal attention,” something that can be lacking in real-life, given group dynamics.Jony wants to become a speech therapist and despite her ideal of a 100% face-to-face internship, likes the idea of remote work. “It would more flexible despite the obvious drawback of no opportunity to become familiar with a real working environment.”
Bernice wants to be a youth social worker and would prefer an internship that is mostly face-to-face. “I hope to apply what I have learned in class to a virtual internship and think it would be less stressful but I also want to finding out about attitudes in the workplace.”Emily, another social worker-to-be, wants problem solving and teamwork skills through supervised, hands-on practice but she admits the attractions of working virtually. “I would be more comfortable than if I had to express my ideas rather than face to face.”
Emily, another social worker-to-be, wants problem solving and teamwork skills through supervised, hands-on practice but she admits the attractions of working virtually. “I would be more comfortable than if I had to express my ideas rather than face to face.”
How secondary students find internships
Honing IT skills was one of the goals of this funded programme. Participating students also saw the scheme as a way to prepare for work. Not only did they build on the knowledge gained at university, they also found inspiration to work in the tech industry – a highly competitive field. Part of the internships had to be done remotely and that fitted well with some project work.
Kwan, a 25-year-old student of electronic engineering, completed a project that created STEM educational material for children. “We made 4D frame models* to explain the structure of insects. My own individual project introduced children to the basics of machine learning and python programming skills.”
Given the importance of getting work experience as part of a career pathway, the projects were planned to complement theoretical knowledge. “My internship was in hybrid mode and it was fine to work on my individual project remotely but I would have preferred more face to-face contact. In remote internships, it can be difficult to arrange a discussion with your supervisor when you come up a problem. It may also be an inefficient way to work on a group project with a workmate.”
Nevertheless, the skills Kwan most wanted from an internship included both generic skills such as teamwork and practical, job-specific skills. “I hope to have the chance to do a six-month overseas placement with group project work and supervised hands-on practical work or online interactive activities.”
* 4D frame models were introduced to Hong Kong from South Korea and are used as aids for teaching engineering and science prototyping.
Edith, whose internship included facilitating events and workshops, planning lessons that involved innovative tools, and training for design thinking, sees her internship as an important step towards her chosen career in education technology.
“I think work experience is necessary before getting a good job and a work placement is part of a career pathway. This internship helped me to be well prepared for practical teaching and has inspired me to redirect my career and academic development towards STEM education.”
Edith’s ideal mode of internship or work placement would have been 100% face-to-face but this time she worked in hybrid mode, like Kwan. “I think virtual internships have many limitations. There are no effective group discussions or brainstorming of innovative ideas. The skills I most want from a work placement are practical and job-specific together with teaching experience. I also wanted to meet other people with innovative mindsets. They give me inspiration.”
Oscar, a 23-year-old student of electronic engineering, planned and conducted training workshops for young people in an internship that embraced research and the development of teaching resources. He also designed hands-on experiments and sourced course materials. Being very well prepared for a new job after graduation is essential if the new recruit is going to settle in quickly. Oscar managed to include both real-time and remote experience in his internship.
“I helped to organize a big STEM educational event, the finals of the Global Youth Science and Technology Bowl 2020 but I did most of my project work at home and that was very hands-on. I have to do internships for my degree but I also think it is necessary before I can get a good job. My ideal would be a placement that was mostly face-to-face. It is the best way to learn and gain proper working experience.”
Tim is a 20-year-old third-year chemistry student whose internship was a mixture of hands-on and work-from-home activities. His project involved preparing and conducting an online STEM class. “Working with teammates during this internship was a really good experience even though more group project work with more supervised hands-on practical work would have been ideal.”
One of the biggest problems engineering students are facing is visualization. The teaching strategy Tim used was based on models that help students learn the topic in the most effective and easiest way with a hands-on」 approach. It makes students feel that engineering is an interesting field to study. “The only drawback in my internship was lack of interaction with colleagues. However, I don’t want to complain. Virtual internships are more flexible where timeslots are concerned and I liked working on the project my own.”
Gabriella, 21, is also in her third year of a chemistry degree. Her internship required her to make STEM lesson plans including Live Kaleidoscope, a Microsoft feature for smart phones, and a prototype for a science exhibition booth that used a 4D frame and micro:bit.*
“I also tested a CPS system** and helped with the organization of the Skills for Tomorrow Expo. The internship was a hybrid mixture of remote and face-to-face activities. Although I think that virtual internships have advantages such as more flexible scheduling and shorter travelling time, I want more hands-on, practical job-specific skills for the workplace so the hybrid mode is better from my point of view.”
Project Update combines a practicum with a short-term work placement for youth in a small group in information technology, marketing, multimedia design, e-commerce and telecommunications. It involves 100-hours of face-to-face skills-updates which introduce participants to workplace practices.
JT is 28 and formerly worked in sales and marketing. She participated in Project Update last summer and feels lucky to have had an attachment with 點止學．野 (Swag Technology Limited). She specifically wanted to work face-to-face with a supervisor who could give her hands-on experience and this company fulfilled her expectations. JT also wanted to learn more about e-marketing which is so relevant today, as well as learning about webpage construction and coding.
“I think learning job skills is very important before becoming a regular employee of any good company. For me, the internship or work placement is a way to gain practical, digital skills by working directly with clients. I was lucky to be able to do so but I think a virtual internship could also have provided me with an excellent experience and skills that I could apply on the job. Either would be useful for my CV.”
Albee is currently in her fourth year of a BBA at the Hang Seng University of Hong Kong. Her ambition is to be a senior manager one day. For her six-month, face-to-face internship in 2018, she chose Binary Creation Limited 二元創意有限公司 , a company that provides STEM services and products.
“Internships are a very important transitional step before deciding on a career. Personally, I don’t really know what I want to do yet and want to take time to think about it. I wanted to work with this company because it pays close attention to marketing skills and has put a lot of resources into its programme, especially digital marketing. I also want to learn more generic skills such as effective communication and problem-solving.”
Albee particularly wanted face-to-face job training. “If training is virtual, and often in recent times it has had to be because of the pandemic, I think it would be hard to understand company culture and to grasp what is expected of you by way of performance. It is also difficult to form good relationships with colleagues, especially if you are a new recruit or a student without work experience, as I was.”
Bill is a 23-year-old who was a sales assistant in an IT company until 2019. His career ambition is to be a user interface (UI) designer. He did a face-to-face internship with Light Up Technology Group for six months in 2018. “Working directly with business clients was the most useful part of my job placement, along with supervised hands-on practical work. In a virtual internship, the best substitute would have to be interactive activities online.”
UI design involves presenting a product’s development in a way that is attractive and convenient for clients. It means creating interactive programmes that enhance customer experience with a brand. Bill points out that, “Specialized training is very important for delivering quality products and services because the position combines elements of programming, psychology and digital design.”
Kitty has worked as a dental surgery assistant but has not made any definite career decisions yet. She did her face-to-face internship with the Easy Rich Marketing Company in 2020. The company provides integrated digital marketing services and the internship lasted about two weeks.
“I would have preferred a hybrid, 50:50 mode of internship but am not really sure how well it would be rated by prospective employers, compared to a conventional face-to-face internship. Anyway, the skills I most wanted to learn came from working directly with clients and the work I did with Easy Rich Marketing was based on a marketing strategy tailored to suit individual clients.” The reskilling programme has helped Kitty most because she is thinking of looking for work in a new field where there is currently a huge demand for labour and that means in the IT industry.
Project Update training takes place in small group tutorials followed by a practicum and short term work placements. It is for unemployed and underemployed young people aged 18-29 who are full degree or sub-degree graduates at post-secondary or tertiary institutions.
Participants also joined Project SETUP, a 6-month management trainee programme in SMEs and startups. Both ongoing projects are organized by HKFYG’s Youth Employment Network to meet the needs of Hong Kong’s dynamic small-and medium enterprise (SME) sector.
Project Update funded by J P Morgan Chase
More details [in Chinese] yen.hkfyg.org.hk/projectupdate/
Enquiries Fiona Law or Rennie Wong 3113 7999