Internships are a general foundation for getting work experience and a nice looking CV for when you come out of uni - but the question is, do they get you full-time work after finishing your degree? And is unpaid work for a company worth your time?
Recent discussions in regard to internships have brought up the topic of students being exploited, after a member at the July union meeting for the Palmerston North Community Services Council jokingly referred to interns as “unpaid labour.”
Massey vet students have to do most of their compulsory assigned farming placements across New Zealand in rural areas.
One anonymous second year vet student said that they are made aware that farmers may make rude remarks or even get them to do work they aren’t required to do during their placements; but because the farmers are the ones who sign off their papers, the students are encouraged to ‘brush it off.’
When Massive interviewed the Academic Dean of Veterinary Science, Jenny Weston about this comment, she said, “I am not aware that any Vet School staff member has made those sorts of comments… I don’t think anyone believes that inappropriate comments or behavior should be put up with.”
The student, however, goes on to say, “I was asked questions [by the farmer] to revoke my views on trans/gay-rights, religion, females working as vets, and the immigration status of New Zealand.”
Students are encouraged to leave a placement if they are feeling uncomfortable, however, if they leave, they are obliged to do a placement to make up for the lost time elsewhere.
This leaves students in the vulnerable position of either leaving and finding another placement to make up for lost time or, putting up with the harassment for the rest of the placement time and get their papers signed.
Susan Fountaine is a senior lecturer in the School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing. One of the courses Susan looks after is the communication internship, which is available across all three Massey campuses and can even be done via distance learning.
The communication internship involves going into a business one day a week for 12 weeks during a semester, whereas the business internship requires you to go in one day a week for two semesters.
“The students go through an interview process which occurs in September and the students apply for particular opportunities and placements,” says Susan.
“We don’t want the students to be exploited or feel in any sense that they are expected to do additional work… I have never put a student into a situation where I feel they have been exploited.”
Currently, there are far more internship placements than there are students to fill them. Susan explains, “We don’t have any expectation that students will be paid because they get academic credits which is the main goal to count towards the degree.”
In lucky cases, part-time work opportunities come up for students from the internships.
“If the organisation wants the intern to work out of the regulated hours or do work unrelated to the internship there is an expectation for that work to be paid,” says Susan.
After studying in Arizona on exchange, part-time student Kate Harridge did the business internship at the internationally renowned Blacksheepdesign.
As soon as Kate joined the team, they treated her with the same amount of respect every other work member gets.
“They had a really good team culture, even though I was just an intern I immediately felt part of the team, I was invited to social events and their Christmas party.” She explains.
Even though the internship was unpaid, Kate says she was paid in experience.
“It was really good because learning all these tangible skills and actually being in the industry, that’s so valuable in itself… I recommend internships to anyone.”
Since Kate had done her internship with Blacksheepdesign, she then had more opportunities pop up in her career path with Three Keys — a company that bring motivational speakers to the Manawatū.
“I got to do some event management as well and I wouldn’t have had that [opportunity] without my internship at Blacksheep,” she says.
Kate is now doing her masters in business studies specialising in communication, while working full- time at Massey Manawatū in international relations.