Recently, SOFEA was offered the opportunity of hosting five interns during the summer holidays by forging a partnership with the Oxford University’s Career Office. The students we chose reflect the diverse social groups, ethnicities and racial backgrounds of the communities we support, as well as those we don’t currently work with. Having interviewed students applying through their main Summer Internship Programme, available to the entire student body, we also interviewed and selected students from the Crankstart Internship Programme which is available only to Crankstart Scholars, consisting of students from low-income families, often without the social connections and typical education associated with Oxbridge undergraduates.
Why SOFEA Uses Interns
SOFEA wants to offer BAME and low-income individuals the chance they deserve, as well as making best use of their unique perspectives and problem-solving skills. With the benefits surrounding internships and the Crankstart Scholarship in mind, SOFEA’s partnership with the University’s Careers Office reflects a goal shared by both organisations: reducing the impact of poverty on education.
For Ffion Price, an Oxford University History and Politics undergraduate and History postgraduate, SOFEA was the perfect place to do her internship.
“I knew going into it that I wanted to do something good, meaningful and professionally rewarding. I was looking for an internship in the non-profit sector, specifically one that aligned with courses that I was quite passionate about, including access to education and combatting food poverty. You’re not obliged to undertake an internship. However, the Crankstart Scholarship team are aware that many students who come from low socio-economic backgrounds aren’t afforded the opportunity to take an internship because they don’t have the resources available to them to do it.
When I saw the advertisement for SOFEA come up on the site, I was really impressed by the charity’s model. It’s not often that you come across an organisation that tackles numerous issues as SOFEA does. It’s got its education programme, but it’s also got its partnership with FareShare in combatting food inequality and food poverty across Oxfordshire. I thought that it aligned very well with what I wanted to do.
Since I’ve come to SOFEA, I’ve been working on two projects. The first is data evaluation and management. We’re looking at ways that we can streamline our understanding of everything that SOFEA does, with a view to improving the services that we provide. This will help to set the vision for SOFEA going forward.
The second project is stakeholder engagement. It’s working to compliment everything that we’re doing with the data and reinforces why SOFEA represents such a great commissioning and funding opportunity because of the brilliant work that it does.”
Another student making use of the recently forged partnership between SOFEA and Oxford University is Maya Dissanayake-Perera, who graduated from Oxford University with a degree in Jurisprudence. Maya told me a little about what it was that drew her to SOFEA.
“Part of the reason why I applied to SOFEA through the university is that I’ve wanted to work in the third sector but it’s hard to get that kind of experience especially because so much of it depends on you having an extra job on top of it, or just working for free. I was really impressed that SOFEA was mindful enough to be able to support people working through a reciprocal relationship.
The reason why SOFEA specifically was because of all the overlap in the work that it does. In terms of my own interests, I’m a Law undergrad and I’m particularly interested in environmental law. It’s so interesting to me how SOFEA weaves all these values into this cohesive framework, in which food waste is being addressed. As well as the work they do for young people who fall through the cracks and how you establish education structures to assist them.
It’s been so cool to be involved with SOFEA’s work and see it more clearly, how everything is connected, rather than going with the individualist approach like ‘on Monday we’ll tackle food waste, on Tuesday we’ll tackle food insecurity, on Wednesday we’ll tackle education for young people’, it just seemed really cohesive and very empathetic environment in its approach to problem solving. That’s why I joined; partly because it’s a supportive place to work but also due to its forward thinking, in a way that a lot of other organisations aren’t to the same level.”
Why Should Businesses Use Interns?
While business leaders agree that educating and training the next generation is imperative to achieve continued growth, there is some debate about how best to accomplish this, and what role interns should play. Too often, interns are dismissed as interchangeable free labour; but those who appreciate the true value of interns know this isn’t the case. But to the unconvinced, what do interns have to offer?
As mentioned, internships are integral to discovering new talent in all manner of fields. Although recently there has been a conscious effort to promote individuals from BAME and low-income communities through internships. This is due to a plethora of socio-economic factors that have too often left these individuals on the professional side lines. By giving these communities the opportunities they’ve long been denied, businesses can benefit not just from a bevy of new talent, but also get the chance to unearth hidden talent that’d otherwise be obscured by ingrained inequality.
Another advantage of utilising interns is their capacity to reduce the overall workload of a company’s employees. Cross-training staff and hiring temporary employees are short-term solutions, but transferring some of the simpler tasks to interns can be beneficial in many ways. Interns are eager to learn and want the opportunity to prove themselves. By entrusting them with specific roles on given projects serves as excellent on-the-job training at very little cost to a prospective employer.
Most interns arrive at a company in their late teens or early twenties and, while detractors would decry their inexperience, their youth puts them in a perfect position to solve problems in ways older staff might not consider. With social media becoming an increasingly important vehicle for firms to promote themselves and interact with their customers, young interns are especially fluent in this new media as they encounter it constantly in their daily life. If social media forms a large part of your company’s activities, then having a workforce that’s literate enough with it to be able to analyse and interpret prevailing trends will become invaluable.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Oxford University’s Crankstart Scholarship, follow this link to another SOFEA blog where you can find out what Crankstart has to offer and see if it’s right for you.
Oxford University Internship Office:
Oxford University Summer Intern Programme: