“Before starting the internship program, I expected to learn only a few things that I have studied in class by putting in a real practice at the workplace. However, the experience has exceeded my expectation. The internship opportunity allows me to broaden my knowledge and prepare me for real working environment through practical work that I am involved in, connecting, and learning from many experienced senior co-workers. It also allows me to discover, shape and build my interests to become a technical skilled worker in the industry as well,” Said Sreythom.
Ms. Morn Sreythom, is one of the 7 students from the Royal University of Agriculture’s, Faculty of Agriculture Engineering currently participating in InGuider. She is a second-year student majoring in Agricultural Engineering and is interning at Khmer Fresh Milk Co., Ltd (Kirisur Farm), a company which has a long-term vision to bring pure natural milk produced by modern agricultural techniques and food preparation and processing under world-class hygienic standards to Cambodia market.
The change of life stages from a student to a professional is not always simple. Students have to face many challenges when they enter into professional life. However, through internship programs, students can be facilitated to better implement their concepts at the workplace. Internship programs not only improve students’ personal skills but also polish their professional growth and experience. Participation in an effective internship program benefits the undergraduate student, internship host, as well as the community by professionally preparing undergraduates through mentored relationships.
Furthermore, internship opportunities lead to improvement in technical human resources which leads to a significant improvement in the overall performance of any given sector, and this is especially true for agriculture. Quality hands-on training via internship is a promising measure as internships provide students with practical experience in the career field they wish to pursue. Not only does this give them an edge over other candidates when applying for jobs, but it also prepares them for what to expect in their field and increases their confidence at work. This contributes to better performance and easier knowledge absorption down the road.
Many universities and colleges require students to undertake internships as part of degree completion. However, the challenge in Cambodia is that these internships are usually not standardized into a coherent program, and there very often are not enough internship opportunities available for students in many universities and private companies also mention the difficulties in finding qualified human resources.
A good internship program, therefore, will benefit all three parties: the students, the university, and the private sector. With that thought, the Faculty of Agricultural Engineering (FAE) of the Royal University of Agriculture in cooperation with Swisscontact developed and ran the InGuider internship program. The project aimed to address the challenges mentioned above while maximizing benefits to both the interns and the hosting institutions, using a structured and centralized approach.
 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).
The InGuider model of developed in the Innovation for Sustainable Agriclture (ISA) project, works specifically with university students in the agriculture sector to equip and empower them with relevant skills by providing them with quality hands-on training via internships. The essence of the InGuider model lies in (1) the structured and centralized approach of the program (i.e., the faculty provide support in pre-selecting the companies rather than the students finding companies on their own, if required), (2) the pre-internship training for students and (3) close supervision of the students by a faculty supervisor throughout the internship period.
To achieve the essence, the InGuider consists of 4 stages:
A step-by-step guideline used to successfully implement the four stages is captured in the InGuider Handbook, which serves as a reference document aimed at assisting universities to implement a better internship program, using the model.
Ms. Niat Meyneang, a second-year student who is currently interning at Conservation Agriculture Service Center (CASC) of Department of Agriculture Land and Resource Management (DARLM) stated, “As a second-year student, I understand the challenge in finding a place to get the internship outside of the university as I am new to the process and having less experiences. InGuider internship program which hosted by my faculty has help me to connect to many internship opportunities that are available for every student to apply. I have engaged to many interesting types of works at the field. It has been a great experience.”
The InGuider, not only aims to provide a good internship experience, but also aspires to bring about systemic change, and so the project is also proud to mention that the Faculty of Agriculture Engineering (FAE) is currently adopting the model and taking ownership of InGuider. The project aims to have FAE continue to follow the InGuider handbook and provide orientations, and trainings to interns while also monitoring the interns and incorporate sustainable agriculture in their curriculum. The project also hopes to work with FAE to engage public/private partners for internship opportunities on sustainable agriculture and if needed provide support to FAE to develop approaches to engage students in sustainable agriculture field. Over time the expectations are for InGuider to spread out and have other faculties start to offer the model and follow the InGuider handbook. Finally, in order to solidify the systemic change, the project aspires to have the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries incorporate the InGuider model at universities in Cambodia along with sustainable agriculture in the curriculum.
For the aspirations of InGuider to be met, it must be accepted not only by the faculty, but more importantly should provide value to the students through quality internship.
As stated by Mr. SOEUN Rathana, a second-year student majoring in Agricultural Engineering and currently interning at BunY Khmer Eco-Energy mentioned, “It was great to participate in the internship program with the huge supports from my faculty. I was interested and applied to intern at the companies who were under the partnership with the faculty. I got the opportunity to explore about the job description from my senior who was a former intern. I have learned a lot from the company by putting knowledge into the real practices, especially, the technical understanding of how we can be innovative and sustainable in agriculture industry. I can’t wait to build my learning experiences when I come back to the class after the internship ends.”
Based on the testimonies of the current interns, InGuider has left a positive mark on them, and so the model will continue to improve and expand in the years to come.