My experience as an AAT intern

After watching a presentation at my sixth from by Masruba Tasnim, a programme manager for The Brokerage (a City of London based social mobility charity that aims to provide career opportunities for young Londoners) I was inspired to apply for a summer internship.

The presentation made me aware of the numerous internships available as well as the assistance and guidance provided by The Brokerage, for example, insight days and masterclasses giving advice on how to develop employability skills.

Various benefits of a summer internship flooded my mind; it would make me more employable in the future, give me an insight into working in the corporate world, and make my dull CV more appealing. Furthermore, I wanted to put my summer holiday to use by being productive whilst earning some money, a paid internship was the perfect option.

Initial thoughts

As a student finishing sixth form, I initially thought working as an intern in a professional organisation would either be very stressful; meeting endless deadlines or being shown how to do things without being given the opportunity to try things out yourself.

However, on the first day of my internship I was surprised to be welcomed by many of the AAT staff. From warm smiles to short conversations in the kitchen, I was made to feel comfortable and at ease. Sharing this experience with six other interns, and entering a friendly atmosphere soothed my initial nerves. Then being told that the organisation has a smart-casual, relaxed dress code was the icing on the cake.

Entering into the world of work

This internship has given me a taster of working life, providing me with appropriate tools and transferable skills essential for university and working in a professional environment.

As I had a rotational role, working in three different teams has taught me the importance of flexibility, communication, working under pressure, problem solving and multi-tasking.

Public Affairs was my first team. Attending parliament meetings on issues such as segregation in the workplace allowed me to witness the processes in shaping public policy. I was kept on my toes, as every day I was presented with a different task.

Working in the Professional Standards team provided me with more insight into how AAT operates as a responsible organisation. I enjoyed working with the Insight Team to create a survey on Green room  (AAT’s online research community). I was also given an exclusive tour behind the scenes of the online research forum.

In my final team, Change Project Management I learnt the importance of teamwork and organisation, especially after creating a massive programme plan wall chart (which I’m hoping wouldn’t drop).

Internships are essentially long-term investments for not only businesses, but for people who want to get their foot in the door

Achievements and Highlights

One of my biggest achievements was being on time every day, and remaining energised. The first week was a bit of a struggle as my body clock had to adjust to this new routine, and I had to remain focused during meetings. I later adapted to the work-life routine, and found myself routinely grabbing a cup of coffee every morning.

On a more productive side, meeting Chris Stephens MP (of the Scottish National Party) was one of the highlights of my internship.

My manager, Phil Hall (Head of Public Affairs and Public Policy) and I visited Parliament to discuss AAT members concerns around HMRC staff numbers and training. Being informed of Stephens’ support for workers’ rights, I was able to squeeze in some questions about zero-hour contracts.

Overall, delivering work to a high standard has been a great achievement. Some may think that interns are given low-skilled tasks however, as an AAT intern, I was given the opportunity to get involved in various important activities. I have attended external and internal meetings on significant issues such as cyber-security and introducing automation in the workplace.

I have also researched and written a comprehensive document detailing alternatives to tax rises to fund the increased investment in the NHS, this was recently announced by the Prime Minister. The document was circulated internally amongst the policy team, and forms the main basis of a campaign that AAT will launch in September to influence policymakers.

Looking back

AAT has exceeded my expectations, and after the AAT summer fun day event on the first week, it did not take long to get used to the social-friendly culture of the company.

The other interns and I even had the opportunity to get to know more about the chief executive of AAT, Mark Farrar and vice versa in a morning catch-up meeting.

After attending an EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) champions meeting, it was very clear to see the great amount of effort AAT puts in to promote diversity, equality and inclusion. Not to mention the self-defence, yoga and mindfulness sessions provided to promote staff-well-being which AAT intern Bilikisu described as “relaxing, fun and exciting”.

It was very refreshing to see an organisation placing as much value on the environment, community and ethical issues as they do about their main order of business.

Importance of internships

In my view, internships are essentially long-term investments for not only businesses, but for people who want to get their foot in the door. You can become equipped with relevant skills and aware of the culture of the company, increasing your chances of being employed by the company in the future.

For young people, not only do internships allow students to do something productive during their holidays, but they may also tackle the issue of undergraduates failing to get a job due to lack of experience.

Exposing young people to the work environment would help them develop realistic (SMART) future plans to achieve career goals. Internships can provide students with insight into a particular industry so that they can make decisions about their careers earlier on.

I believe more needs to be done to increase students awareness of internships available to them. Previously, I thought they were only available to post-graduates, it was not until I signed up to The Brokerage that I realised how much was available.

Nevertheless, organisations such as The Brokerage have done a lot to help young people access experiences of work, employability skills and jobs through partnerships with employers. This is demonstrated by the numerous of workshops they run for example, workshops on improving CVs, Into Work conferences and giving young people tips for interviews e.g. the STAR model which stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. This has been extremely helpful in providing young people with guidance and has made the transition from the school environment to the workplace a lot easier.

Image left to right : Diogo Ribeiro Camara, Amali de Silva, Nana Boateng, Khadija Patel, Deborah Owoyemi, Umme Faathimah, Bilikisu Salami.

Following the Business Traineeship Programme, The Brokerage awarded AAT, Employer Newcomer of the Year award.

Deborah Owoyemi is a former AAT intern.

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