Tool #7: Want to take on an intern?

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Checklist for designers who have taken on, or are about to take on, an intern or a volunteer.

In general, we feel that all work should be paid. However, if you already have, or are about to take on, an unpaid volunteer or a low-paid intern, here is a checklist of really important things to consider and make sure you put in place:

a) First, have I clearly defined whether this is a volunteer position or an internship? Is the position replacing work that has formerly been paid? Does the work require special skills? Remember, an internship is supposed to be a learning experience.

b) Can I commit to – and do I really have time to mentor – the volunteer or intern properly; to provide them with the basic training and support necessary to learn and carry out the tasks requested of them?

c) If not, have I assigned a mentor? Does this person have scheduled time to carry out this role?

d) Is the appointed mentor trained to do this work? If not, when will they be trained and how will they be supported? Has their workload been adjusted to accommodate these extra duties? Is the appointed mentor happy with that role? If not, can you find someone who will actually enjoy liaising with the intern?

e) Have I advertised this post openly and appropriately, in line with equal opportunities measures?

f) Does my advertisement give a detailed outline of the required skills and the skills that will be developed on the placement? Does it give full details of the duration of the placement, working hours, remuneration (if applicable) and the process for claiming expenses?

g) Have I made plans to give the intern or volunteer a detailed induction on the first day of the placement, covering, as a minimum, introductions to other staff, working procedures, health and safety, details of what to do if they wish to make a complaint and confidentiality requirements?

h) Have I invited the intern or volunteer to a trade union or professional association meeting and introduced them to employment standards in the workplace?
i Have I provided the intern or volunteer with a statement of agreement or a standard contract that includes the duration of their placement, and hours to be worked?

j) In the first week of the placement, have I agreed a ‘learning plan’ with the volunteer or intern, with a clear list of learning objectives, outlining the skills and experience that the volunteer or intern wants to gain?

k) Have I put in place a structure for the volunteer or intern to track those objectives? This should take the form of logs kept by the intern, and regular progress meetings with the mentor.

l) Is the workplace appropriate, safe and insured?

m) Have I made sure that other staff in the studio understand the intern or volunteer’s role and that fair treatment is ensured?

n) Have I planned a comprehensive feedback session with the individual and their mentor in the final week of the placement, where all concluding aspects can be openly discussed?

o) If, at the end of the internship, my studio cannot take on the intern or volunteer in a professional role, how can I support them to find work?

“Checklist for designers who have taken on, or are about to take on, an intern or a volunteer” has been adapted from a text by the Carrotworkers’ Collective.

Last edit: 05.06.2014