When it comes to building a successful career, one of the best ways to stand out is to complete an internship program before graduation. They allow you to gain essential skills and experience, but also in the majority of cases internships are found to lead directly to paid work.
For many young professionals seeking meaningful work, however, it’s no longer satisfying to start out with any company that promises to help you climb the ladder. New graduates are dreaming of ethical careers, where they can combine their professional development with a real commitment to social justice, human rights or environmental sustainability.
For a new generation of students, ethical careers start with an ethical internship.
An ethical internship means one that’s completed at a charity, non-profit organisation, social enterprise or ethical company: any non-governmental organisation that has a deep social impact mission, as opposed to a weak CSR policy or greenwashing agenda. There are several benefits of ethical internships, to both students and to employers:
- Ethical internships help students to acquire important employability skills, developed through meaningful and hands-on experience at an organisation that has a social mission. Students get to learn first hand how social enterprises, charities or ethical companies turn their values into action.
- Internships do add value to a student’s resume, especially if there is a social impact involved. By completing an internship with a social impact organisation, students demonstrate to employers their commitment to their values, and to the values of the company they may be applying to work for.
- Charities, nonprofits and social enterprises are often running on tight budgets; they need interns to fill a wide variety of roles. By offering their skills and time to helping these organisations, students get to make a real difference. Employers benefit from their labour, while students learn new skills in roles that may not be offered to them if they were interning in a for-profit company.
- Internships provide an opportunity to expose yourself to the industry and find a career pathway that matches your interests. They enable you to test drive your chosen career path, trying a new industry or a role, and seeing how the role matches your passion for social impact, and if it’s where you want to take your ethical career.
At Torrens University Australia, a number of students are learning about the benefits of ethical internships firsthand, through the Social Enterprise Hub.
“Torrens University Australia’s Social Enterprise Hub excites me because it’s all about collaboration. I was drawn to an internship with the Social Enterprise Hub because I could see how they worked with organisations within the community to improve their business, and innovate within their industry.”
- Gabrielle Hopping, Bachelor of Business (Event Management) student and participant in the Hands on Art internship.
The innovative Social Enterprise Hub service provided by the University works with partner organisations to match students to internship opportunities at social enterprises, nonprofits and social impact organisations.
Students are given a unique opportunity whether they can participate and lead real projects, which are implemented and executed by these partner organisations. In their roles, students apply their learning to projects they are passionate about, by actively initiating, participating and executing tasks in real business and organisational settings.
Their tasks may range from participating in strategic projects, initiating product launches, designing marketing campaigns or executing events. Students get to make a real impact, helping the organisation and the wider community, while practising meaningful skills.
Hands on Art: internship project success via the Social Enterprise Hub
Several Torrens University students recently completed a group live brief project for Hands on Art, part of Communify: an artist-run community art program for adults and children, which has been operating since 1968.
“As part of my work with Hands on Art, I was involved in analysing and developing a new strategy for venue hire for the organisation's management team. This involved research and ideation techniques that helped me to brainstorm areas and platforms that the enterprise could utilise to attract their ideal venue client.
I also worked with the team to create briefs for content such as professional videos and photos that could be used for marketing. My contribution also included recognising new tools and trends that would assist Hands On Art in attracting students for their art courses.” - Gabrielle Hopping, Bachelor of Business (Event Management) student and participant in the Hands on Art internship.
Students from the business and design faculties had the opportunity to review and redesign current marketing and sales processes, to be involved with various community events such as Art on Fences, and assist with organising art exhibitions as well as the art workshops for children and adults.
Students used their skills to:
- manage the organisation's social media platforms,
- design promotional campaigns,
- redesign a new venue for hire
- schedule workshops,
- create promotional videos, images and content.
- and to promote the organisation, the artists and the workshops.
As a team working with the artists, they achieved incredible results and learned a lot from one another: business students learned from design students about branding, whereas design students benefited from learning some new business insight.
As a result of their work on this project, school holidays workshops were sold out, and online traffic, brand visibility and customer engagement were all up. Importantly, students also extended their professional networks and made meaningful connections with the artists behind this fantastic organisation.
“During the project, I had the pleasure of also planning, creating and scheduling for the Hands on Art Facebook page as well as being active on Facebook groups to reach a wider audience. This was a really enjoyable experience, as I really liked designing social media tiles that aligned with the style and voice of the company.
A great achievement during my time at Hands on Art was that our paid advertising campaign for school holidays reached over 3,500 people on a small budget.” - Gabrielle Hopping
More ethical internships on offer through the Torrens University Social Enterprise Hub
Participating in an internship program through the Social Enterprise Hub allows you to enhance your resume, practise skills, network and contribute to a social impact organisation as well as helps you identify a path forward for your future career.
“Being a part of a team at the social enterprise hub meant I could work with students in other industries or majors and work together to come up with ideas and produce results for the organisation. It also gave me an opportunity to receive mentoring with a personal approach that focused on skill and knowledge and also career goals.
I think this experience has taught me not to ever pass up an opportunity to use the skills that I have learnt to assist organisations whose values align with my own, because it has been extremely rewarding.” - Gabrielle Hopping
There are a wide variety of partner organisations working with Torrens University and the Social Enterprise Hub, providing unique internship opportunities for students:
Students from the business and health faculties conducted a market research and business analysis into the Repair Café project. Students are now creating a detailed execution plan for the Repair Café to be fully operational.
Internship programs are on offer at Palliative Care Queensland for health, design and business students to work as part of the marketing, event planning, business operations and health teams. Also available are in-classroom projects, where students, under the supervision of their lecturer, design a large exposition, plan a new marketing and awareness campaign or work on an exciting new app.
This South Australian charity is dedicated to supporting women, mothers and the wider community. Business interns, under the supervision of a lecturer, recently conducted a market analysis at a national and international level to formulate recommendations in relation to funding models and fundraising.
This social enterprise sells ethically produced, environmentally responsible menstrual products. Through the Social Enterprise Hub internship program, Torrens University business and design students built a new marketing strategy, conducted market research, created social media content, and developed interesting podcasts that are now available on Myoni’s website.
Radio Lollipop provides care, comfort, play and entertainment for children and young people in hospitals. As part of their industry placement subject, students were challenged to design a fundraising campaign to 'Sponsor a Volunteer;’ helping to cover basic costs for volunteers, such as hospital parking fees and supplies for in-ward activities.
In a classroom environment, students under the supervision of a lecturer, developed strategic growth plans for the donations of clothing and the expansion of operations in South Australia. Students also conducted financial analysis and developed marketing opportunities to encourage people to donate items.
Opportunities for professional development are broad, varied and meaningful with ethical internships. Students of all faculties can access the Social Enterprise Hub at Torrens University Australia.