2.1 The General Introduction to the Company
It is the first contact of the trainees with their work place. It is generally a formal moment and covers all activities at the arrival of the trainees on the work place.
For the trainees, the first impression of the work place and staff is very important. A warm welcome in the work place will help the trainees overcome their initial nervousness.
In order to help the trainees through the orientation period, the supervisor should:
Describe the structure of the company, its principles and philosophy.
Explain the work schedule and the tasks of the different staff members in the team.
Explain the Internship Activity Plan. Distribute a brochure or an organization chart of the company, as well as a practical information document with working hours, necessary phone numbers for the trainees etc. (cf. 1.4).
Explain ”the house rules” and also give these in written form (English or another language).
Give information about safety regulations. Appropriate clothing / safety shoes will be provided etc. If so required, you will have to distribute a Work Place Risk Analysis form.
Check if any documents (Internship Agreements) have to be filled in or signed.
Clarify regulations and how to act in emergency situations (company procedures).
Explain the work procedures and how the supervision will work out in practice (making appointments). Inform the trainees how many formal assessment conversations you are going to have.
Explain and show equipment.
These items are described more detailed in Checklist for the Trainee: Introduction to the Company When the trainees have no more questions about all this, show the premises : the main building, workshops, changing rooms and facilities for different purposes. The practical things to be organised may also include possible visits to other work places or units.
The trainees can be really showered with information. Put information as much as possible on paper : a well-structured document prevents confusion and misunderstanding.
Operating in a foreign language and in a new culture may be very confusing. In the beginning, check if the trainees understand you. The trainees should be urged to ask questions about anything that is not clear. Constant support and encouragement are vital for a positive working relationship.
2.2 The Introductory Interview
This is the first live contact between you and the trainees. As a supervisor you want to know what the trainees expect , you are probing expectations. On the other hand, you express your own expectations and check the reaction of the trainees.
Here you get the important first impression of each other. A good introductory conversation works motivating for the two parties.
You invite the trainees and stipulate the date, hour, address and exact place in the company, possibly with the required tools or clothing.
You read the documents of the sending organisation with the trainees and sign the Internship Agreement.
You ask questions about the expectations of the trainees and try to match them with your own expectations.
When you ask open questions, answers can be very broad, and you can get a lot of information. e.g. Why did you apply for an internship abroad?
When you ask closed questions (e.g. yes/no-answers) you can verify something or get to know a clear opinion. e.g. Do you like working in a team?
A list of things a trainee usually expects:
Get to know daily life in a company,
Be practically busy,
Experience modern techniques,
Review and try out their own knowledge and skills,
Experience the difference between the requirements in training and in a company,
Examine if the chosen training is the most suitable,
Carry out tasks with the support of a professional,
Put school knowledge into practice,
Learn a foreign language,
Be treated fairly and friendly!
Get clear and simple answers in connection with working life,
Build a circle of friends, be part of a team,
Have a good time in a foreign country.
You also let the trainees ask questions. Give as specific an answer as possible. This gives a feeling of security and works motivating.
Listening to the expectations of the trainees doesn’t mean you have to make things the way the trainees want them and neglect the objectives of the internship.
2.3 Giving Feedback
You give honest, personal information to the trainees concerning how your impression is about their behaviour or performance. Feedback is a constant process during the internship and helps to improve the performance of the trainees.
By means of feedback, the trainees can determine how close they are to the intended outcome of the internship. Feedback is one of the most important matters in supervising.
Giving feedback should be:
Constructive and aimed at improving performance in the future, suggesting positive alternatives, looking forward.
Specific, about behaviour, about facts related to the job and related to learning, about what the trainees can do about it.
Focused on the work: e.g. “What you did with that machine this morning could have caused these problems.” So: play the ball, not the man!
Calm, describing possible (bad) consequences of behaviour with encouragement to learn and do better next time.
Two-way communication, supporting the trainees in evaluating themselves and finding their own way in solving problems.
Short but frequently (not just when things go wrong) and immediately after behaviour or the performance and direct.
Giving feedback should not be:
A way to express disappointment and anger. Only looking backward.
Vague, about the behaviour of the trainees in general, about many different things at the same time or about things he can’t change.
Focused on the person, using words like ”You are a stupid person.” ”You are always...” or ”You never do... ”
Angry, harsh, discouraging, emotional, only repeating what went wrong.
One-way communication, starting from the idea that the supervisor knows what is best for the trainees.
Long after the problem occurred or by surprise.
With regular (positive) feedback from the supervisor, a trainee can climb high on The competence Ladder . This tool can make people aware of their level of (in)competence.
You offer concrete information in a visual, graphical way and you give the necessary oral explanation.
A picture says more than a thousand words! Trainees with pragmatic and active learning styles (see 2.5 Learning Styles) need very visual demonstrations . It works also motivating when the trainees understand things immediately.
Visualize your manner of thinking, your analysis of a problem.
Ensure a clear structure with a logical order; show the steps in a process.
Work in phases if necessary.
Introduce each phase and focus on the most important points.
Give a short summary after each phase.
Take care that:
the trainees can see the process well,
the trainees can hear the explanation well,
the trainees understand the explanation,
the number of phases and operations can be overlooked,
the demonstration is not too complicated.
Give a summary of all phases after the complete demonstration
Always check if the trainees understand what you have been demonstrating or explaining.
2.5 Learning Styles
People usually have their own preferences in one of the four learning styles. The learning theory of David Kolb distinguishes 4 types of learning:
From Concrete Experience (CE),
From Reflective Observation (RO),
From Abstract Conceptualisation (AC),
From Active Experimentation (AE), testing new concepts in new situations.
It’s called “the learning cycle” because we often need to go around the wheel, experience – observe and reflect - analyse - test , to be able to perform a new skill.
Learning in the workplace is an essential component of professional training. It is important that the supervisor helps the trainees understand their learning process and try other learning styles in order to progress.
If the trainees prefer “learning by doing”, the supervisor should try to let them test and try different tasks already from the beginning. This method could, however, make “reflective” trainees a little scared , since they prefer to observe you performing the tasks before they try.
As the work placement period proceeds and evolves, you can and should allow more room for the trainees to work independently in new situations. The best guide to know when such a point has been reached is your experience as a supervisor.
Supervisors often teach in the same style as they prefer to learn. This style might not be the same as the trainee’s.