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Internships and volunteering

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What is an internship?

An internship gives you the opportunity to work at a company to learn new skills and gain experience in a particular industry or job role. Sometimes called a work placement or volunteering, they’ve become an established stepping stone into employment.

There are various types of internships:

  1. Work shadowing – you follow one or more members of a team throughout their day, allowing you to learn directly from experienced, sometimes top industry professionals.
  2. Work experience placements – give you a taste of working in your chosen profession or field. These are often part of degree courses, but there is also a range of programmes for school leavers, or you could arrange your own placement. They can last from a few days through to several weeks, or longer.
  3. School leaver programmes and holiday schemes – offered by some of the larger management, financial, and accountancy firms. These act as training programmes and a way for companies and interns to find out if it is the right role and company for them.

Do you get paid?

It depends – some internships are unpaid, particularly in sectors such as the media, where competition is high. If an intern is classed as a ‘worker’ rather than a ‘volunteer’, they’re normally paid at least the national minimum wage. If the intern is expected to undertake work for the company, has a list of duties, and is working set hours, they should count as a ‘worker’. Exceptions to this include  work shadowing, volunteering, and work experience placements that are part of further or higher education courses. If you're not sure if you'll be paid or not, contact the employer to find out.


Things to consider

  • What do you want to get out of it? 
  • What does the internship or placement offer?
  • Will you get the support and range of experience you want?
  • Particularly if it’s unpaid, will it provide a good insight into a particular industry, help develop contacts, or open up the possibility of paid work with that employer in the future?

Find out more

Take a look at the websites of any employers you’re interested in working for to see if they have internships, work placements, or training schemes available.

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