There are many things that might help to explain the proliferation of internships over recent years. Perhaps too many young people lack the ‘soft skills’ demanded by employers in the increasingly important service sector; perhaps there are too many young people looking for graduate level jobs in our low-wage economy; or perhaps many employers are unscrupulously exploiting the abundance of eager young graduates and blaming it on the recession. As always, it is probably some complex mixture of all three. Whatever the specific reasons, I think this proliferation is a symptom of a general failure on the part of one generation to effectively discharge its duty to pass on a society and economy within which the next generation can thrive. This seems to me like a pretty big failure.
That being said, we are where we are, and even if national minimum wage law is enforced in cases of unpaid internships that can be shown to qualify as ‘work’, other forms of internship – paid and unpaid – are still likely to remain. I’ve argued before on this blog that internships should now be conceived of as a kind of near-essential training for the professions and, therefore, should be made accessible to all via grants and loans in the same way as higher education is. I must concede that this is very unlikely to happen any time soon, but one thing that could be introduced fairly easily is a kitemark for organisations offering top-quality internships. (An organisation called Internocracy was at one stage doing this, but it’s unclear whether or not they are still active.) This would recognise and encourage best practice, helping prospective interns (and potential future employers looking at their CVs) to distinguish useful and enriching internships from those that are not. If such a kitemark was introduced, the RSA would come top in class.
There are a number of reasons (apart from the fact that it is paid, which is obviously great) why my internship in the RSA Education Team has been so good. The first, and maybe the most important, is that is has given me some valuable skills and experiences that I did not have before. Perhaps the most rewarding was the opportunity (I call it an ‘opportunity’ now but at times it felt more like an impossible challenge) to design, organise, manage, and deliver an all-day event at the RSA in which 40 students from schools in the RSA’s Family of Academies came to discuss student leadership and design enrichment activities to be introduced in their school(s). Now I think about it, it is fitting that by planning an event in which students would learn about the importance of enrichment activities and design ones for themselves, I was actually enriching myself enormously. Another more recent example is the work that I have done supporting the RSA’s current research looking into in-year admissions in England, which has involved, amongst other things, helping to build, design, format and test a survey sent out to all local authorities in England.
Another reason why this internship has been so good is the fact that the RSA is such an interesting and enjoyable place to be. Coming in every day to work in a beautiful 18th century building which plays host to events and lectures from some of the most stimulating and groundbreaking speakers – including some of my favourite philosophers – has been a privilege. I don’t know what it was like to be around the RSA when Benjamin Franklin or Karl Marx were Fellows, but right now it feels like a place where imaginative, innovative and independent-minded people can come to discuss ideas (through debate and dissent, not brainstorming) and, most importantly, devise solutions to today’s most pressing social problems. I suppose that is what they mean by 21st Century Enlightenment.
The final thing which has made my internship at the RSA so great has been the staff, starting of course with the Education Team. Interesting and interested (I love that distinction), conscientious and collaborative, principled yet practical, light-hearted while hard-headed: the RSA is literally made by the people who work here, and they have made my internship the best it could have possibly been.
I’m now moving on to start a permanent job at the Citizenship Foundation, and no doubt my brief stint at the RSA helped me to secure that position. But I will most definitely keep close tabs on the goings on at the RSA, if only to see if it gets that internship kitemark.
Filed under: Design and Society, Education Matters
Two new intern opportunities have arisen within the RSA Projects team. Each of these is paid at the London Living Wage and will last for 12 weeks:
RSA Design Intern – assisting the Design team in developing and curating content, running events and communicating work through a variety of social media. The intern will be tasked with supporting the team on two projects in particular – the Student Design Awards and the Great Recovery project. We are looking for someone who is enthusiastic about sustainable design, the circular economy and design for social good. Click here to find out more about this position.
RSA Academies Intern – helping the Executive Director of RSA Academies to support the development of the growing RSA Family of Academies. The intern will be asked to take a lead on the creation a more systematic process for communicating with stakeholders, to assist the RSA as it seeks to create a new Academy in Redditch, and to organise various events for schools within the Family. We are looking for someone with a keen interest in education policy and a sound understanding of marketing and communications. Strong written communication skills are necessary. Click here to find out more about this position.
Regardless of the internship position, we always look for candidates who are passionate about pursuing social progress, who are willing to put forward new ideas and test our thinking, and who are driven to develop their own skills and knowledge in a chosen discipline. Wherever possible, we also seek to recruit people who understand the RSA’s overall ethos of 21st Century Enlightenment and who can prove that they would benefit strongly from our opportunities – experience is desriable but a good attitude and a desire to learn are often more important to us.
If you think you fit the criteria and are interested in either of the above opportunities, make sure to apply by 9am on Monday 17th September. The expected start date is Monday 1st October.
There are only four days remaining until the application deadline for the latest set of RSA internships paid at the London Living Wage.
There are three opportunities available, all of which are based in West Kent supporting our new recovery programme. This programme aims to nurture a vibrant ‘recovery community’ across the area which can support those experiencing substance misuse. At the heart of the programme is a belief that recovery can only truly be made possible and sustainable when the efforts and assets of the wider community are brought to bear on the challenge.
Interns will have the chance to assist with the programme’s community engagement strategy, particularly the many and varied recovery focussed events throughout the region. Successful candidates will support the Recovery Community Organiser in taking forward the ‘Recovery Month’ programme, part of which will involve interviewing event participants and developing promotional materials including website content, posters and blogs.
We are looking for candidates who have a keen interest in community engagement and/or recovery. Above all, we are looking for interns that are enthusiastic, committed and willing to try new things.
The internship will span a period of two months, beginning late May / early June.
The deadline for applications is midnight Sunday 13th May.
For more details and to find out how to apply, visit our internship page here.
Filed under: Arts and Society, Enterprise, Social Brain, Social Economy
As part of the RSA’s rolling programme of internship opportunities, we are pleased to announce that we have three new paid positions opening up in early 2012. These are designed to give successful applicants the chance to experience what it is like to work within a fast-paced research organisation, to get to grips with emerging theories and concepts in different fields, and to hone their abilities in everything from fundraising, to project management, to the research itself.
We hope that our internship opportunities are different to those of similar organisations. In addition to being paid, they are also intended to be flexible enough to meet the needs of people facing more difficult circumstances, and to accomodate individuals of all ages, from younger graduates to those wishing to try something new midway through their career. What is most important to us is that the internships are reciprocal; we want to add value to you, just as much as we expect you to add value to us. Indeed, we aim to have long-term relationships with those who work for us, which is why we offer one year’s free Fellowship to all of our interns.
The three new opportunities are as follows:
Enterprise and Social Brain Internship – working with the Enterprise team on a new piece of work looking at the competencies people need to thrive in a 21st century workplace, and with the Social Brain team on a number of their emerging projects.
Arts and Social Change Internship – assisting the Arts and Social Change team to carry out an evaluation of their work in Peterborough and to develop new pieces of work as part of the nascent arts and society programme.
Connected Communities Internship – providing extra capacity to the Connected Communities team and assisting them with a variety of on-going research projects which look at the relationship between social networks and well-being, health and other life outcomes.
The internships will begin sometime in early February and will last for two months. The deadline for applications is Tuesday 10th January. Interviews will be held approximately w/c 23rd January.
We have two great intern opportunities shortly opening up in the RSA Projects team.
These positions will give successful applicants a unique opportunity to experience a dynamic research organisation pursuing civic innovation and social progress, to build and hone their research and office skills, to broaden their knowledge of different disciplines, and to develop a better understanding of how a research organisation turns thinking into action. For RSA Projects, they’re also a useful way of injecting fresh thinking and new ideas into our work; as always, we expect our interns to challenge us just as much as we challenge them.
Both opportunities are three months long, are paid at the London Living Wage and will start in early October. They are:
Recovery intern position – primarily focusing on supporting the Recovery Capital Project as it launches into its main design and pilot phase. The successful candidate will work on desk research, engage with interesting concepts in the field of recovery, arrange events and help write engaging documents.
Public service and place-shaping intern position – providing the Citizen Power team with social media support and assistance as they develop the next phase of their work in Peterborough, and helping the 2020 Public Services Hub as they undertake practical research and policy analysis with national and local organisations.
The closing date for receiving applications is Sunday 4th September so please do get started. We would be grateful if you were able to pass on the news of these opportuities to anyone who you think might wish to apply.
Filed under: Design and Society, Education Matters, Social Economy
Internships are seen as the passport to interesting and dynamic careers, but how many get turned away at the border because they don’t fit the ‘right’ profile?
This week with the publication of Ross Perlin’s ‘Intern Nation’ and Wednesday’s planned ‘Day without interns’ protest outside Westminster the rights and status of graduates looking to get a foot on the career ladder is in the spotlight. The internship system of largely unregulated, unpaid work placements is being attacked for boosting social immobility and inhibiting the career development of all but the few with the freedom, finance or connections to benefit. I have no doubt that the time has come to review intern rights and wrongs, but in the process is it time to have a bigger conversation about how we all navigate our professional lives in changing times and how we can best support each other to reach our potential.
I’m not your typical intern, for one thing I’m older than most. I’m in the process of changing career, hopefully taking my experience as a designer into new places where I can use my skills for social good and create a sustainable future for myself. For another thing, here at the RSA I am paid, which is important not only for my survival, but for my self-respect. I returned to education as a mature student, as did most of my peers on the MA Design for Development at Kingston University, all of whom brought a diversity of professional, cultural and life experience to the table.
Whilst the internship debate quite rightly advocates for the rights of the young and inexperienced, the internship culture itself now dominates access to many creative professions. With that comes the implicit expectation of youth, unfettered responsibility, and freedom from personal and financial obligations; and out goes opportunity for ‘people of all ages and backgrounds’ (e.g. mature students, career changers and parents). It follows that people whose lifestyles can adapt easily to unpaid work (plus paid second jobs) can later adapt to the exacting working practices that uphold the status quo. Companies describing themselves as ‘young’ do so as if describing a virtue, but with that assertion comes a whole host of other assumptions that discriminate not just against people of different ages, but people’s whose lifestyle for many other reasons does not match the ‘youthful’ profile.
The way we work is changing; few of us can expect jobs or careers for life. We need to adapt to become more flexible in not just how we manage our careers, but how we plan for a future where the good these changes bring can be embraced by all. By focussing on the internship issue alone, are we perhaps missing an opportunity to throw open the debate and re-evaluate the professional landscape as a whole?