Farewell to our Nate
Posted: 28th Jul 2017
Nate, our summer intern, reflects on his five weeks spent here at Centric.
“I have spent the last five weeks interning as a Protocol, Safety, and Equality Consultant at Centric Community Projects (in partnership with the Equality Council UK) as part of a scheme funded by the University of Exeter Access to Internship scheme. This is a programme that works to allow University of Exeter students from lower socio-economic and working class backgrounds to gain experience in the charity sector (particularly with smaller charities like Centric) without placing a financial burden on the organisations. I’m just about to start my career in the Civil Service, having been offered a place on The Fast Stream starting in August, so this is likely the last internship that I will ever undertake in my working life, and it has been a brilliant one to end on. It has also been a chance to reflect on the variety of internships I have completed over my time as a student (and now graduate), what vital skills these have given me, and how the internship industry works as a whole.
Internships are on the rise across the UK and it is expected that over 70,000 will take place in 2017. The opportunity to work within a business for a brief time is an excellent opportunity to gain skills, try out new industries, and begin to advance the early stages of a career. Without these internships, I would never have found my passion for the third sector and wouldn’t have had the skills to make it through the Fast Stream rigorous application process and definitely wouldn’t be where I am now. Thankfully, I have always been lucky enough to find internships that have paid me for my time, and could use the money to afford transport or accomodation where needed. But my experience is by no means the norm. Largely, the wider internship industry is made up of unpaid employees who agree to work for free and in doing so these interns often acquire financial losses. Latest figures suggest than an unpaid internship costs the intern approximately £926 a month inside London and around £788 outside. For students and graduates from backgrounds like mine, these situations are just unfortunately realities of the working world that we cannot afford to buy into.
I come from a working class background where, for the majority of my childhood, I remember living hand to mouth and my relatives trying to stretch every pay cheque to the end of the month. To this day, my family live relatively comfortably, but only just. Out of necessity, I’ve had an unbroken record of employment from very soon after I turned 16 until today. I used this income to support myself and afford to live comfortable and buy what I need. My family couldn’t afford to pay to support me whilst at University, so I leaned heavily on student loan provisions, part time employment, and summer jobs. So, for me, conjuring an excess of £800 a month to work for free at a company would have been as easy for me as Achilles test-driving a new pair of Heelys. If given the choice to spend the summer in an area that would advance my career, or work in pink and blue collar jobs, I would have to pick the latter out of simple financial neccessity. That’s why opportunities like these – and the internships I have had in the past with the likes of Civil Service – are so important. With a market as saturated as ours, work experience is more vital for graduates to get their first job in the market than ever. The availability of work experience that is also affordable for anyone, regardless of background, is an issue that all employers must address. These opportunities are very literally life changing for some, and money should never be a barrier.
And what an opportunity I’ve had. I have always been somewhat apprehensive going into internships in the past. I know friends that have spent an entire six weeks filing months of backlogged files, fetching coffee for upwards of 30 people, or carrying out otherwise menial, unfulfilling tasks. Often companies accept interns to carry out tasks that aren’t worth the time of their paid staff, or are just otherwise necessary but entirely dull. At Centric, I have always been knee deep in the lifeblood of what the charity does. In just four weeks I have created and taken control of new social media accounts for the Equality Council UK. I’ve designed new graphics, taken new steps when advertising exhibitions, and done my bit (however small) to begin to build the national profile of a growing Equality charity. On the Centric side, I have spent time with some of the great charities that we work with, learning exactly how they function on the ground and what our free space allows them to do. I’ve aided in the active recruitment of new organistions to begin filling our properties across the country and made some great connnections doing so. I have offered consultation and advice from my previous positions at the Citizens Advice Bureau and DCLG on some very important issues that have already begun to change some of the ways that Centric do business. I have improved and even created new processes to streamline how Centric function on a day to day basis. Even today, on the last day of my internship, I remain amazed and flattered at how much of an impact this small team has allowed me to leave behind and how welcoming they have been of my advice as just a four-week intern.
“Our intern had a strong skill set and was able to make a massive contribution to the workplace, if he didn’t have a job to go to then I would want him on my team as a permanent fixture. Thanks to the University of Exeter for this scheme.” – Julie Ion, Chief Executive
Now, getting ready to publish this on the Centric website in the last half an hour of my internship, I am sat reflecting on not only my four weeks here with this great charity and it’s great people, but also on my life as an intern as a whole. I have been blessed to have found, and often just stumble into, some of the most enriching working experiences of my career so far. Each and every one has opened my eyes to something new, given me skills and knowledge that I never had before, and made me appreciate just how diverse and wonderful the third sector continues to be. I am so glad that I got to spend even a short time with Centric and will remember these four weeks very fondly as I take a few weeks off for the summer, ready to lunge head first into what I’m sure will be a very exciting job role. I am grateful for everything that has gone into this internship, from the hard work that Centric has done to make me feel secure and valued in my role, the funding that the University of Exeter has provided, and everyone else I have worked with over the four weeks to make this a truly enriching experience. And, looking back on just how much this experience has given me, I cannot help but think of what I would have missed out on if this internship had been unpaid and thus unaffordable for me. All of the internships I have had have given me priceless skills and memories, but it is shocking to think that – for some – price is exactly the barrier to their career.”