We've recently produced a report looking at the reuse and surplus asset sector in universities, some of which are based in the USA. One of the common things we discovered is that most of the projects, if not all of them, have some sort or student intern, student helpers, or student employees.
We are going to produce an intern pack for reuse systems. Let us know what you think so we can create the best pack ever!
As it turns out, this is commonplace across America; students are viewed as a meaningful way to get stuff done on the university estates.
At the same time as I was doing this study, Bryan Harris, Sustainability Manager of Dundee City Council, asked me whether I had a job description for an intern for Warp It, our reuse programme.
Bryan is a customer of about 4 years and has saved his council 100Ks by introducing a furniture reuse system. See their performance metrics here.
This got me thinking about my own experience as an intern, or rather a short-term student employee when I was doing my masters in Clean Technology at Newcastle University.
Back in 2000 I was doing an industrial placement, as it was called then, with a German Pharmaceutical firm called BASF PLC. I was implementing ISO 14001 in a pharmaceutical plant close to where I lived. I was, for all intents and purposes an intern. I was an inexperienced student on a paid placement for four months. I received £250 a week which was a good rate back then- I was lucky!
When I went into my work life I was very quick to hire interns for small projects when I was working in municipal councils and the university. They were usually unpaid positions because I couldn't get the funding to pay for those positions during that time.
However, the more senior, let's say, internships that I did hire for, via very meaningful projects such as environment management systems and that sort of thing, I could raise some funds and pay them a small wage.
It got to a point where I was having three or four interns a year. Out of those interns there was a lot of fails, it was all part of the actual intern process. There were a lot of wins as well and at least three or four of the interns I engaged went on to have full-time roles.
From those I engaged at Newcastle University, two interns remain there over five years later ( Hi Salvo and Sean!) in paid positions and doing very well for themselves.
So what is my point? It seems that interns, student employees, are an embedded culture in the USA. So why is it not the same in the UK? I don't just mean in Uni's either. That's an open question. Obviously we do have interns, there are internships, there are paid opportunities but it's definitely not mainstream as far as I can see.
I would like to understand why this is and make inroads to change it. Have you hired an intern? If so let us know what you think and fill in our survey.