Keywords: Competencies, transfer of knowledge, internships.
Engineering students at the National University of Tachira in Venezuela have the option to do a semester-long internship with a placement program that the university runs. Research suggests that internships help students develop competencies required by industry and adapt to the workforce by having an understanding of how to apply technical and professional skills in a business environment. Similarly, higher education institutions are expecting that their graduates are able to integrate and apply the knowledge they have learned when facing on-the-job situations. The purpose of this paper is to better understand students’ experiences regarding transfer of knowledge during their professional internships. Data were collected qualitatively using observations and interviews and were analyzed using grounded theory strategies. Participants were (5) Industrial Engineering female students who were doing their professional internship. Students were observed in their job environment and interviewed at different moments to learn about their perceptions regarding the competencies that were required by their industry advisor and those they applied during the development of their internship project. Results suggested that there was a difference between what students perceived as competencies required and what were the competencies they applied. From the students’ point of view, companies required: an ability to communicate with employees and clients; organizing and leading other people’s work; ability to solve problems; ability to understand the production process in short time. The competencies that were actually applied according to the students were: an ability to adjust to the workplace, communication, motivation to learn, proactivity, self-confidence, a disposition to collaborate, honesty and responsibility, and technical skills depending on the project. The study showed a gap between what is perceived by students as required and what they actually had to apply in their daily job. Students perceived the development of attitudinal competencies as the most important aspect of the internship because helped accomplish what was technically required, overcoming their insecurity about how to approach the technical project. Implications for research, administration, and policy are presented.
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