A practicum or internship is intended to supplement education; it is meant to familiarize and acculturate a student to operational business practices in a relevant organizational setting. Practicums are designed to give students the chance to get real-world, hands-on, career-relevant, specialized experience in their industry.
The quality of a given practicum will depend on a number of factors, including: university requirements, industry sector, relevant experience/education, the time of year and duration, not to mention the specific conditions of the host organization. Done correctly, practicums are the best possible way to put theory learned in school into practice and to broaden ones business network. Most practicums are composed of unremunerated participation in an operational business environment or occupation in order to gain a functional insight into the industry sector and business processes. In some cases candidates may be paid a stipend or basic salary though this should not be the main consideration when organizing a placement; if you an afford it, you should focus on he content of the placement rather than whether or not you get paid… Practicums should be primarily for the benefit of the student and designed to give candidates the chance to both observe and participate in operational activities in order to better understand the hosts industry sector and work environment.
Practicum students and hosts should be absolutely clear that a practicum is not a job. Practicum students should have the chance to participate in and explore different aspects of the host organizations operations and different roles with in the organization. Activities and tasks should mostly be project-related but can include some operational day-to-day tasks as well. These may not always exciting but are a necessary part of any practicum, however these sorts of tasks should not comprise more than 20% of practicum activities; it should not be about making coffee any buying donuts. Practicums should be non-supervisory in nature though candidates are given some real responsibility and accountability for the tasks they undertake. Placements are designed for the benefit of the candidates but are in real, functioning organizations and due care, an understanding or processes, limitations and protocols as well as a professional attitude are critical. Ultimately a practicum requires a lot of flexibility and a participant that can adapt to the style, culture, processes and environment of a host organization.