The evaluation of an interpersonal development programme for interns at a tertiary education institution
Higher education institutions deliver large numbers of graduates annually prepared to enter the workforce. Unfortunately, unemployment remains a harsh reality in South Africa, affecting these graduates. The National Research Foundation launched an internship programme running over 12 months, providing graduates the opportunity to gain experience. Research have found that even though university courses cover a wide range of technical skills and knowledge, graduates still lack several essential skills. These missing skills include communication, teamwork, conflict management, or emotional awareness, and is generally referred to as interpersonal- or 'soft' skills. The present study implemented and evaluated a programme to develop interpersonal skills for interns studying science, engineering, and technology at a tertiary education institute. The general objective of the study was to implement and evaluate the programme to develop interns' interpersonal skills. A qualitative research approach was followed with social constructivism and phenomenology as philosophical underpinnings. A case study design was used while purposive sampling was employed to ensure a homogenous sample. The sample consisted of National Research Foundation interns (N=10) in the field of science, engineering, and technology at a tertiary education institution. The results showed that participants experienced the development programme as useful and empowering. The programme raised participants' self-awareness and enabled them to solve problems they encountered. Participants developed a sense of maturity and self-confidence which help them deal with difficult and uncomfortable situations. Overall, the participants experienced the development programme as positive. Valuable recommendations were made, by both researcher and participants, for future development initiatives.