In January I was lucky to be offered an internship with involver, and their partner the Smart School Councils Community. Having now come to the end of the placement, I wanted to write a quick reflection on the experience to explain a little about the work I was doing and hopefully offer some help to any of my fellow graduates looking for internships.
involver is an organisation that works with schools to help promote a culture of inclusive democracy, in which the students take an active role in shaping their school policy. By encouraging them to represent themselves and their peers to make changes and tackle problems that they themselves identify, students develop the knowledge, skills and experience they need to make their school a better learning environment. The effects don’t end in school though; by engaging in democratic processes at school students will be in a position to become informed and active citizens outside of education
While the majority of schools have some kind of student council and citizenship education is (and shall thankfully remain) a statutory part the national curriculum, these outlets for student voice are often tokenistic. They offer no real power to the students, no real knowledge of how to approach authority with their ideas and concerns. As a result, a child can go through their entire school life without ever feeling remotely in control of the process of their education. Can this system encourage an attitude of active citizenship in students? I humbly suggest that it can not.
The mission of involver is to change this approach and empower children while they are at school. This is a mission I firmly support, which made it easy to really engage with their work. This helped make the placement not only an exercise in gaining practical skills and improving my employability, but a genuinely eye-opening experience in education policy and wider democracy.
Be more than free labour
I graduated last year and I often hear from fellow graduates who share horror stories of internships that take everything and give nothing, essentially using desperate graduates as free labour. I couldn’t say that they should be more selective in where they intern, it’s simply not the situation graduates today find themselves. But I would suggest applying at small charities or not-for-profit organisations. They may not be as recognisable as larger private companies, and it may be more difficult to find somewhere offering paid internships, but it is more likely that your time and effort will be valued and in return you will be able to gain far more experience and a broader range of skills from the placement.
At involver I had freedom to contribute in any way I felt would be useful experience for me or beneficial to the organisation, and as such I’ve gained skills in areas I would not have even considered before starting the internship. I feel incredibly lucky to have been given a place here, and if you’re a graduate in the same position as I was three months ago, I hope you can find somewhere that will offer you the same opportunities as I found.
Finally, I would like to say thanks to Asher and Greg at involver. It was great working with you, and I wish you every success with involver and the Smart School Councils Community.