Kerala Technical Uni’s push for internships amid pandemic leaves students in a fix

Seventh semester B Arch students are required to do a compulsory internship, but most companies are not taking interns due to the pandemic.
Kerala students studying architecture in KTU in a fix
Kerala students studying architecture in KTU in a fix
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“Good afternoon, thank you for applying for an internship at our firm. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we need to inform you that we cannot accept an internship this year, 2020, until an unspecified deadline. However, the portfolio that you submitted will be archived as a prospective intern in our company.”

This was a communication from one company to an architecture student. But scores of them pursuing Bachelors in Architecture under the Kerala Technical University colleges have received similar messages in the past few months. Despite the pandemic, the university and the curriculum committee decided to go ahead with the compulsory internship for seventh semester students. 

In the 10-semester B Arch course, the seventh semester is solely dedicated to an internship. There are 410 students in eight colleges across Kerala, who are currently in their sixth semester and are required to find an internship soon. However, as the state is grappling with the rising COVID-19 cases, many architecture firms have stopped taking interns and even many of those who had already secured internships are unable to start work. 

Few takers for interns and other restrictions

According to a press release issued by the seventh semester B Arch students from the eight colleges with the course under KTU, there are 109 pupils who are yet to find an internship. The condition is worse at the Government Engineering College, Payyanur, where none of the students yet secured internships. The semester amounts to eight credits and the failure to find an internship can lead to the student failing the course.

“Considering the unprecedented situation in the country arising out of COVID-19 and in the light of the government advisory for social distancing (sic), and due to the lockdown in the state, we have cancelled the intake of interns for the semester till December 2020,” a major architecture firm based in Thiruvananthapuram informed the students. 

Another firm based in Kozhikode, which used to regularly hire students, said that they would not hire interns this year “due to the space constraints and limited allotments” because of the pandemic.   

There are also students who secured internships in different districts and states but are in no situation to travel. 

“Two months ago, I secured an internship in a firm in Kozhikode. But hailing from Thrissur I have not yet been able to visit or even find an accommodation in Kozhikode, as my firm is in a containment zone,” said an architecture student.

Another student, who got an internship in her hometown in Thiruvananthapuram has not yet been able to attend office as the city has been in lockdown for the past few weeks. Thiruvananthapuram, for almost a month, has been reporting the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Kerala.

“In some districts like Wayanad and Kasargod, there are only a few architecture firms. Students have to travel to other districts and find accommodation there, which is very difficult in today’s situation,” said Nandakishor, a student. 

Many students are also worried about working when the cases are rising steadily in the state. On July 22, five students who wrote the Kerala Engineering Entrance Exam, tested positive for coronavirus. “We have old people in our house, even most of our parents are above 60, how do you think we will manage this internship?” questions a student from Thiruvananthapuram.

No change in internship despite advisory

On April 23, the Council of Architecture issued an advisory requesting the colleges to shift the internship to the last semester or swap it with any other semesters “in spirit of the extraordinary times our world is facing.” 

Following the advisory, the Mahatma Gandhi University, in Kerala, on July 1, decided to shift the internship to the eighth semester. However, the Kerala Technical University paid no heed to the advisory and decided to go ahead with the internship for seventh semester students. 

“The university curriculum insists for 100 working days for practical training, which is not very difficult to achieve, even if there is a lag before the commencement of the odd semesters. […] Accordingly, all affiliated colleges conducting B Arch programmes are informed that the practical training (internship) for B Arch students will be conducted in the seventh semester itself,” an official circular released by the KTU read.  

Responding to a student’s complaint on the matter, KTU Pro-Vice Chancellor S Ayoob passed the buck, saying that the B Arch Curriculum Committee should take a final decision on the issue. 

Work from home does not work

Some firms have changed their internship policies and have started giving work from home assignments, which according to the students, are ineffective. “I was assigned work from home a month ago but I have not yet visited a site, I do not know client or office management. In fact, I have not been able to study anything which the course entails, so what is the purpose of this internship?” argued Aneem Sha, a student. 

The expected outcome of the practical training, as given in the KTU syllabus, is to “expose the students to all aspects of architectural practices including the functioning of office, project management, technology and construction practices.” This, the students say, cannot be achieved by doing internships remotely from home.

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