1.1 Background of the Study
Faculties of Agriculture in Nigerian Universities are saddled with the responsibility of training undergraduates in several disciplines in Agriculture. In doing this, they employ experiential learning. Kipkeme, Chumo, Kosgei ,Chepng’eno & Boit, (2015), opined that education is vital for human and natural resource development, individual behaviour, changes in attitude and enhancement of participatory skills in people. Danilevicius (2013) emphasized the importance of strengthening the link between learners in agricultural schools with specific professions as it facilitates occupational aptitude and meaningful qualifications for precise occupational activities that serve as primacy of school curricula to any educational system. In this light, it was mandatory and indeed a policy of the National Universities Commission (NUC) that agricultural undergraduates in the fourth year of the five-year degree be exposed to farm practical year (Practical Year Programme).
Practical Year Programme otherwise called Internship promotes learning by doing where students combine theoretical knowledge and hands-on skills during programme implementation. Students going on PYP are usually attached to commercial farms for a period (usually 6 months) and while there, they are placed under the supervision of a farm Manager (ITF handbook, 2007).
According to Bukaliya (2012), Internship is any careful monitored piece of work or service experience in which an individual has intentional learning goals and reflects actively on what he/she is learning throughout the experience or duration of attachment. It is a platform for Agricultural Science Students to integrate theoretical knowledge and skills with real working environments and put them into Practice. Weible (2010) defines an intern as someone working in a temporary position with an emphasis on education rather than employment
1.1.1 Importance of Practical Year Programme
Practical year programme plays an important role in preparing students for the real life world, especially in the working experience, environment and activities that are necessary for students with regard to their first hand skill development and knowledge which are not obtained during the regular classroom (Bisoux, 2007). Practical agriculture experience is a platform for students in the academic world to integrate theoretical knowledge with real working environments and put them into practice. They need to take part in a supervised and planned work in the real-world specialized settings ( Muhamad, Shahimi and Mahzan, 2009). By having this programme, the students will have practical skills that can boost their understanding of issues which are significant to a particular work (Furco, 1996) and enhance employability, provide the students with real expectations of interns , furnish satisfaction of the internship experience and giving Internshp prerequisites as predictors of Internship success (Knouse and Fontenot, 2008). This Programme provides a unique opportunity for undergraduates to learn about the roles and tasks relevant to their field of study.
Akeregola, (2008) stated that Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) Is a skill acquisition Programme designed to prepare Students in tertiary institutions for transition from the college environment to the work environment. Objectives of Practical Year Programme
objectives of SIWES otherwise known as practical year programme in relation to agricultural education include; to produce an avenue for Students of agriculture to acquire agricultural experience and skills required for Success in agricultural occupations; to prepare Students for working in agricultural enterprises after graduation; to expose Students in handling agricultural tools, equipment and machines that are necessary for carrying out agricultural productions; to help for easier transition from school to agricultural occupations; and to afford them the opportunity of applying the knowledge gained in theoretical work into Practical work in agricultural industry (Industrial Training Fund, 2007).
1.1.2 Practical Year Programme Implementation in AKSU
In Akwa Ibom State University, the structure and implementation of practical year programme are similar to others Universities and the students are attached to the University commercial farm in the respective unit of Crop science, Animal science, Fisheries, Soil science, and Farm survey and Extension services. The students are expected to submit a detailed report at the end of the training, write practical based exams and VIVA which is an oral examination. The programme equivalences are also done in countries like Botswana College of Agriculture, (BCA) and even the Iowa state University, United States. The expected learning outcomes of the programme are competencies that students will acquire at the end of the programme to prepare them as agripreneurs. These competencies as identified by BCA (2008) includes areas in soil science and fertility, agronomy and horticultural practices, crop protection activities, forestry activities, engineering activities, land survey, farm power and machines, farm structure and services, post harvest handling and extension services. Navarco (2006), Bruening and Frick (2004) submitted that companies of today want graduates with cross-cultural experience which includes; communicative ability, independence, confidence, proactive team player, discipline, motivated and a positive attitude. Abidin, Jamil and Abdullah, (2017) Points to numerous literatures which agree that students must acquire technical, employability, generic and transferrable skills that will make graduate meet up with two primary requirements- ability to accumulate knowledge and the aptitude to blend the acquired knowledge with context. In the opinion of Ayanda, Yusuf and Salawu (2013), the inclusion of PYP in agricultural curricula will help address some of the shortcomings as the acquisition of Practical skills will broaden graduates skills in Agriculture such practices known as placement internships, cooperative education, experiential education or work integrated learning in different academic institutions will serve to be important to help students gain hands-on experience in the workplace, practice textbook theories and skills as well as reflect upon their future and career development. This will be made proficient by allotting time (quality and in quantity) for practical training as this may determine the effectiveness of such training on the trainer and their proficiency in farming in all Agricultural educational programmes. (Lenke 2015, Yusuf and Salawu 2013: and Mojarradi and Karamidehkordi, 2016). Undoubtedly, learning develops a person’s functional, analytical and leadership capacities, unlocking diverse opportunities for use within the labour market and in any chosen occupational field. (Onanuga 2015). The role of universities in facilitating such capacity development in furnishing the perceptions of students is unquestionably critical.
It is against this backdrop that the researcher seeks to assess the Perceptions of Practical Programme by Agricultural students in Akwa Ibom State University, (AKSU), Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
In recent years, Practical Year Programme (Internship) has exploded in popularity as an effective approach to enhancing students’ employability and career development. Over the decade, a large number of academic research have explored the outcomes of practical Year Programme. While there is an extensive of research focus on beneficial outcomes of PYP to the students and organizations as well competencies in skill acquisition, very little empirical study has been carried out on assessing perceptions of Agricultural students’ on Practical Year Programme. It is important for Students’ to apply theoretical knowledge previously acquired in the classroom and as such they need to take part in a supervised and planned work in the real-world specialized settings (Muhamad et al., 2009). A formal learning environment will never be able to provide Students’ with complexities, problem analysis and solving involved in the real work place (D’ Abate, Youndt and Wenzel, 2009). Internship training is meant to introduce Students to the practical aspect of what they learnt theoretically as it bridges the gap between theory and practice (Mihail, 2006). However, scholars have recently raised questions in the contained effectiveness of the internship programme in achieving its stated objectives (Wodi and Dokubo, 2009).
Paisley (2012), opined that Universities need to be connected with farming communities in order to broaden knowledge, increase research and enhance local problem solving skills.
Osinem and nwoji (2010) noted that there was a growing concern among the Agricultural industrialists that graduates of higher education lacked adequate practical background needed for employment in agricultural industries, therefore, employers prefer to employ untrained youths or academic graduates and provide them with the necessary competencies and skills required in industry (Maclean and Lai, 2011).
Ekanem et al., (2018) while assessing the incidence levels of skills competencies among agricultural intern in Akwa Ibom State University found that only 44.9% of the students were competent in farming skills pooled from the eight sub sectors of agricultural production while majority (55.1%) were not competent in the practical skills they were exposed to.
Chi and Gursory (2009) further opined that acquiring and developing competent skills help students to hone their skills in job searching endeavors. In relation to employability, skills attribute to students level of confidence when they apply for a job.
It is against this backdrop the researcher sought to analyze perceptions of Practical Year Programme (Internship) by Agricultural students of Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU), Nigeria
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The general objective of this study is to assess the perceptions of Practical Year Programme by Agricultural students of Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU), Nigeria.
The Specific objectives are to;
1) examine the demographic characteristics of the respondents.
2) assess the perceptions of the respondents on Practical Year Programme.
3) examine the level of constraints faced by the respondents during the programme.
4) examine the perceived ways of improving the Practical year Programme in the study area.
1.4 Hypotheses of the Study
Ho:1 : There is no significance difference between the personal characteristics of the respondents and their Perceptions towards Practical year programme.
Ho:2 : There is no significance difference between the Perceptions and the level of constraints faced by the respondents during the Practical year programme.