Internships are learning opportunities in a workplace. Structured internships are usually offered by large organisations while small to medium businesses tend to offer more informal opportunities. Ideally they include mentoring.
An internship is a short term temporary work experience opportunity that you do over a set period of time. It may be paid or unpaid with flexible hours (weekends, evenings, hours during the week).
You should discuss the amount of time you work in the internship with the employer before starting so you both have a clear understanding of what is required. You can do an internship while you are studying or shortly after graduation but it should not go on indefinitely.
ALERT: The cost and responsibility of health & safety and workplace requirements can sometimes be a reason why an employer may turn down your offer to do an unpaid internship.
Workplace experience is often a compulsory part of an AUT course of study, giving students academic credits. You get a placement in an organisation for a specific length of time, usually to work on a project or on tasks that will further develop your skills within a particular area of the organisation. BUT you should not be there as a glorified filer or coffee maker. You are there to apply what you have been learning to a real-world setting.
Students generally are mentored by a workplace supervisor and an AUT academic and must do an assignment (often a large report) at the end of the placement. The work placement can be paid or unpaid.
Faculties don’t have long lists of organisations offering work placement so it is important to start building your networks early in your study to make sure you end up with plenty of employers and organisations to approach. It can also be helpful to think about possible projects of interest to you or activities that could further develop your skill set. Then, when you are approaching employers about a work integrated learning or co-op position, you have projects and ideas that you can suggest to them. At the very least, this gives you ideas to talk about with an employer.
ALERT: It’s important that you communicate clearly about the opportunities you’re looking for when you approach employers so they understand what you want and need.
Graduate programmes are usually formal training programmes within organisations that are designed to give students a taste of the organisation - while also developing your skills and experience. Graduate programmes run for a set period and usually include training and mentoring. They may include rotations through different sections of the organisation, depending on its size. A lot of medium to large firms offer graduate programmes to attract talent.
ALERT: International students are not always able to apply for graduate programmes because the programmes are for a fixed period and often don't match visa requirements. However, talk to the employer about other opportunities that may fit your visa requirements.
An employer may not be able to offer an internship or graduate role but may have other opportunities such as part-time or fixed contracts that could still provide work experience opportunities. So, persevere, be patient, open and flexible.
Written by AUT Employability & Career Specialist, Rebecca Du