Internships Galore

Continuing the discussion from Surprising Story Receptions:

Okay, so this convo seemed to spark a bigger debate, and since Surprising Story Receptions are for just describing the story, let’s get more involved here!

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@itchy In the US we have a combo of exploitive free internships and actual paid ones. In my experience, unpaid internships are more like what you’re describing, and paid means you’re still doing kinda grunt work, but you’re still at least learning something because you’re getting paid.
In US schools, again in my personal experience, this would be something you’d have to apply and/or compete for. Not always, sometimes it’s just a class that you pick, but a lot of these cooler opportunities in my experience requires some form of application or special dispensation from a teacher (which is how I got in to a gifted theatre program).


Iirc in America unpaid internships have rules including that they can’t be replacing an actual employee and that they need to get more value from the experience than the employer gets from labour.

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Yeah, sorry, I should have clarified. We don’t do ‘internships’ like the US, but ‘work experience’ which is basically a couple of weeks of cheap (never unpaid) work for school or uni. However, as I said, more recent ‘internships’ have developed which is more like a paid summer program and is more for actual grad students. And I should clarify: I’m not saying work experience here is exploitative, at least not in the sense of free labour doing shitty jobs. I’m saying that it’s a given that students won’t be applying for workplaces that they have skills in, and so you are lucky to be shown how to do anything and are instead told to do whatever things require less brains.

What I meant was not exploitative work, but rather “we will not treat you like an adult with skills but instead a fool who is taking up valuable time/energy of our employees so we’ll stick you in the corner with something that won’t hurt anyone, so our employees can focus on their actual jobs”. That’s my impression anyway, but gathered from other people I know who have done work experience too. On the other hand, I know of others who had better experiences, probably because they actually approached companies in their career interest, but more importantly were outgoing enough to make contacts and have initiative. I wasn’t either of those things so probably got the worst of it. (In my case I went to a magazine and got 5 minutes of “this is how you use our design software” and two days of “photocopy this stuff for me because we weren’t expecting you** and we have no other jobs for you to do so I will invent a meaningless task”. Another place had me watch rehearsals of a performance and cull their props room, because theatres here don’t actually have work enough even for paid employees)

Ignoring that though, the school based ones don’t (or didn’t, again I’m way past school :wink:) have a process for weeding kids out. And as I said, as far as I know, it’s a matter of cold calling, most bigger companies have an ‘application’ but simply so it goes to the right person at the company. But as far as I know there’s no processing of applications like they do with resumes, it’s just a first come first served thing. So ‘competition’ is more about who gets there first.

So yes, different to the US.

** I had made the arrangements months in advance, they knew I was coming, and worse they knew I was coming interstate specifically for this particular internship because publishers in my country didn’t offer a lot of internships at all to the point that there was simply nothing for me in my own state. So I travelled and paid for my own hotels and food and plane ticket, in the hopes that this would be a good opportunity at the biggest publishing house in the country. It was really upsetting to realise that they not only forgot, but made no effort at all to actually take the opportunity to either put me to work or train me to do anything. Instead they stuck me in the photocopy room so they could have uninterrupted meetings :woman_shrugging:


Okay, just saying. I feel like this is what I meant in a weird way? Like that’s totally ridiculous and exploitative. Your experience makes me angry that’s so unfair.
While I didn’t personally do any internships in HS, my best friend did and she was a full vet tech (asst. to the vet if this is a US term) at 17. Like you had to apply and work and get “accepted” into a program for it.

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In my experience and that of friends around me HS level internships and College level internships seem to be two different things.

HS level internships Ive actually had positive experince with. They were typically smaller companies and those that got the internships were given things to do and treated as a very low level employee. More of an emphasis on training and real world skills. Again not every company is good but in my circle of acquaintances it was generally relatively symbiotic.

College level internships were a different story. They were much less about what the job would be like and more focused on networking, and resume building. It also served as a way of gatekeeping those with less financial means from getting more prestigious jobs. Since those jobs required intern experiences which were typically not paid so you had to be able to afford not making income for a summer.


I didn’t mind having a work experience kid; i did do a fair amount of prep.

First, I’d give them an introduction to Catia, showing them various ways of modelling things. Then I’d get them to design themselves a 3D logo made up if their initials: if you look at it in one direction, they would see the first letter of their name; rotate it 90 degrees so you’re looking from a different plane, and they’d see the first letter of their surname.

I’d show them a few different ways of modelling it, before getting them to turn it into a drawing that they could print and keep.

At the time, i was involved with some legacy projects, and i was doing a newer version of some aircraft gear box. I would give them a few old hand drawn (and simple) drawings, get them to model them and produce the drawings from the model. This saved me some time as i had a LOT of parts to get through. These were real projects, and their work contributed to actual designs that would ultimately be manufactured and go on a test rig (about a year later; modern aerospace design is NOT fast!)

(Don’t worry, all parts still went through the meticulous design checks. Although the student was producing the drawings, my name had to go on the drawing, so any mistakes were ultimately my responsibility)

As well as that, i always arranged mini tours of the heat treatment and chemical plating areas; they would be shown around by a member of staff who knew the area, giving me chance to do other stuff for a bit.

I’m pleased to say i never once got a student photocopying or reading manuals!


Instantly applies for an internship with you.


It could be differences in the way employment works in general. Here most kids aren’t necessarily expected to have part-time jobs at the age of 15. We live at home while attending uni, and uni is heavily government subsidised (we basically get loans from the government that don’t come due til you earn a certain wage post-graduation), so there’s no expectation of saving for uni or having massive debt. We have employment contracts and unions are fine and we don’t get randomly fired for no reason at all. We are expected to get a degree, even before entry level jobs (ignoring supermarkets and fast food), so maybe no one sees a high school student as having something to offer.

That is, maybe work experience is seen as a dud time waster to employers because almost all of them want/need proper graduates with experience in the field, and because it’s compulsory for schools, don’t see any point in ‘training’ someone who is only going to be there for two weeks. They’d rather work with the new hires who will be there longer and have more investment in the job, and will actually have skills they can put to use. Maybe they’ve just had too many duds who showed up, not to work, but to muck around off school. Maybe investing time into someone who leaves in two weeks isn’t worth the trouble for most companies. Maybe, like me, most people plan it last minute and the employees just don’t know how to offer work/training last minute either.

On the other hand, I can see someone more extroverted getting something out of it. I got dumped in places and with people I didn’t know, and am not one to ask questions (I learn by observation), so it’s very possible people saw me as someone not interested in the work and therefore worth their time explaining stuff to. I’m not outgoing so not fit for answering phones, and not having a part-time job I just didn’t know what employers expected of me (and I guess assumed they would just… tell me :woman_shrugging:). I had the same issue starting paid employment - it was just assumed I’d have the skills/knowledge/attitude to do the job and I was often expected to just get on with it, and it was a rare person who offered to show me how something worked. There’s been an attitude over many jobs from coworkers that a new person was supposed to be able to figure out things without being shown. (Of course, I mostly never worked corporate jobs so maybe that has something to do with it. If there’s no corporate hierarchy or HR to speak of, training for that job/workplace was basically non existent)

… I study now, as a mature age student. They make us do ‘career planning’ classes. 90% of it is about schmoozing, knowing your skills/weaknesses, making Linkedin profiles, or discussing ways to improve your abilities before applying for jobs (ie take leadership roles in clubs, go to extra classes, attend industry events, blah blah). There’s no room to account for mature agers on their nth career and a family, or people with disabilities, or those who aren’t interested in schmoozing, or those who plan to be self employed. But they sell this ideal of an extroverted, able-bodied person already trained up, because that’s what employers want.

Perhaps in our overpopulated world, it’s not enough to show up and be ready to learn: you have to already outcompete everyone else for being the most well-rounded person even before you graduate, and work experience is not for training, it’s for networking.

… Or maybe it’s just I’m not a good corporate cog :woman_shrugging:

To counter this, at uni, before even the first semester had finished, I got hired by our lecturer for part-time work. Apparently he did this every year with students he saw potential in to give them a leg up on finding work post-grad. He was one of those rare people that went out of his way to show you stuff. I later worked with other (older) graduates and you could tell which employees they were because they always had an attitude of showing you how stuff worked and being open and willing to mentor you and answer questions.

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One of my fondest memories of school was the one week work experience.

It carried into getting contacted a few months later to assist in installing upwards of a hundred computers in a larger company, all at full pay.