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Are Today’s Youth Unengaged? Not according to SCiP

scipmixersamA few weeks ago, Sam (our resident Serving Communities Internship Program expert) and I got the chance to participate in the SCiP mixer at the University of Alberta, organized by CaPS (Career and Placement Services). Designed as a speed-networking event, the event matched four representatives from nonprofit organizations with 16 prospective interns for what turned out to be a dynamic and fruitful evening.

The evening’s guest speaker was Omar Yaqub, who was also manning a table that night in his capacity as Chair for IFSSA (Islamic Family Social Services Association). His presentation highlighted his varied experience in social innovation in the nonprofit sector and encouraged students to utilize their skills to create their own opportunities.

scipmixeromar

Also in attendance was Maggie Baird from NextFest, a great festival that offers a lot of opportunities for emerging artists. Sam and I headed up the last two tables. Sam discussing the internships available here at Volunteer Alberta and me answering student questions about the Serving Communities Internship Program. Groups of four students were seated at each table for a period of 20 minutes, after which they moved on to the next table.

As recent graduates ourselves, Sam and I often hear about a lack of youth engagement, in the nonprofit sector and otherwise. We were happy, and not at all surprised, to be met with students who were exceedingly eager to diversify their experience and learn more about the sector. What struck me most was their clear understanding of the required skills, such as flexibility, cooperation, resourcefulness, and their motivation to grow in these aspects. The $1000 bursary awarded to interns is a great incentive, but it was plain to see that these students sought benefit beyond the monetary. Furthermore, they really wanted to do the work.

The SCiP mixer was really SCiP at its best – bright, driven students and accomplished organizations working together for mutual benefit. Thanks to CaPS for hosting a great event – Sam and I are more convinced than ever that the future of SCiP is bright!

Visit the SCiP website for more information, or email Tim with any questions.

Rachel Pereira, Program Administrative Assistant

Unpaid Internships – Doing it Right

_DSC0142Unpaid internships have become a hot topic recently. In the United States, unpaid interns are suing big companies that have offered subpar opportunities with little educational or experiential value. In Canada, students and politicians are pushing for clearer legal standards for unpaid internships to avoid similarly exploitative experiences.

So where does the Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP) fit into this debate? SCiP, a program offered by Volunteer Alberta in partnership with the Government of Alberta, connects nonprofit/voluntary organizations with post-secondary students across the province. While interns participating in SCiP do receive a $1000 bursary from the Government of Alberta after completing their SCiP internship, the positions themselves are unpaid.

The bursary is the first thing that sets SCiP apart from other internship programs. Critics of unpaid internships have argued that they offer an unfair advantage to students who can afford to take time away from work or school and are inaccessible to students who need to maintain an income. By offering interns $1000 for completing an internship, SCiP provides enabling dollars that allow students to take time for this learning opportunity. As well, all SCiP internships are part-time and designed to be flexible around school and work commitments.

SCiP internships are also vetted by our staff to ensure we only offer meaningful, skill-based opportunities. Past internships have included designing websites, building a bicycle fleet, facilitating workshops, creating new logos, and coordinating volunteers. We do not approve internships comprised solely of licking envelopes, photocopying, or filing. Not only do interns benefit from these guidelines, but nonprofits also enjoy the outcomes of these high level projects and the real impact they have on their missions in the province. The mutual benefit of SCiP extends past the immediate internships. Interns gain valuable experience that they can add to their resumes and draw on as they move forward with their studies and with their careers. Nonprofit/voluntary organizations gain human capacity as well as an opportunity to demonstrate to the future of nonprofit leadership how rewarding working and volunteering in the sector is.

Aside from the focus on accessibility and shared value, perhaps the biggest difference between SCiP internships and the unpaid internships currently garnering media attention is that SCiP internships are only offered to Alberta nonprofits helping Albertans. There are no shareholders making money off of SCiP interns’ work; instead, the interns are building and supporting their own communities. Furthermore, many of the nonprofits offering SCiP internships are directly involved in addressing issues like poverty, unemployment, exploitation and adult education – the very issues that those concerned with unpaid internships are also looking to tackle.

SCiP has just completed a very successful second year with over 700 internships filled in over 35 communities across the province since September 2012. The third year of SCiP begins on August 1st, 2013. For more information, or to sign up for the program, please visit www.joinscip.ca.

Sam Kriviak, Program Coordinator

Work in Progress

grad hatsI’m two weeks away from completing my degree in Human Ecology at the University of Alberta. Although I’m not new to the workforce, my options are expanding and instead of searching for jobs, I’m now seeking a career. In this quest, I’m looking to marry the two important factors in my perfect career. The first is doing work I find meaningful and that uses the knowledge and skills I’ve gained in my education. The second, making enough to pay off my mountain of student loans (which feels more like Everest) in a reasonable amount of time, while having a few dollars left over. I enter the debate of working in the nonprofit sector or profit sector. There are so many great opportunities in the nonprofit sector; jobs that offer meaningful work. I could really make a difference in people’s lives. I’d get a chance to use my education, be creative and strategize to solve real life problems. Not to mention benefit from the great networking that takes place.

With all the great things the sector has to offer I’m still left questioning whether it’s the right path for me. What’s holding me back is the aforementioned mountain. I wonder if working in this sector will allow me to pay off my loans and still afford me the ability to buy a house and start a family. This led me on a mission to find the truth about compensation in the nonprofit sector. Let me tell you, it was very difficult to find information about comparable wages in the nonprofit sector. For example, job postings, especially those for entry-level positions, were very vague when it came to wage information. Most didn’t give an expected salary range, while others said things like; “wages are negotiable” or asked the applicant to “state an expected wage”.  However, once I dug deep enough, from what I could find the news is not all bad. The nonprofit sector like all other sectors offers career advancement, benefit packages (health/dental, vacation, professional development, etc) and entry-level wages/salaries that are, for the most part, acceptable. However there are still challenges because not all nonprofit organizations are large with organizational charts that offer room to grow. Also, with the increasing rates in which people switch jobs now (every 2-5 years by some estimates), most higher paying positions required years of seniority that will be less and less common.

These challenges need to be understood by organizations, donors, and funders and they all need to modernize approaches to hiring up and coming talent. Also, if perception doesn’t equal reality, then the story needs to be told better. Make information readily available and don’t be afraid to let people know what you are going to pay them. University students are often accused of being idealistic but we also have realistic expectations around salary and compensation. As a soon-to-be university graduate, what I can expect to earn in an entry level position is important to me. It factors into what jobs I apply for and the sectors I look to for employment. Clear, accurate, and easily accessible information is a good way to catch my attention and help me make an informed decision. As I mentioned, the nonprofit sector has a lot of meaningful work to offer. If nonprofits want to bring in bright and shiny new graduates they need to show them that wages are comparable to other industries, only then will they attract the next generation of leaders.

Gloria Lawrence, U of A Practicum Student

Gloria is a Practicum student with the Department of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta. She has demonstrated a great understanding of the nonprofit/voluntary sector in her time here at Volunteer Alberta. 

SCiP Internships: Flexible & Fulfilling

When I told some friends that I was doing a SCiP internship, I got a lot of shocked reactions.

“Another job? How are you going to juggle all of that?”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea, what with starting a new program and everything?”

I was just starting graduate school in Library and Information Studies, and I had a part-time job already, so I admit I had some of those doubts myself.

But when I saw the SCiP internship for a Library Policy Development Intern, I had to apply. It sounded interesting and applicable to my program, and I wanted some hands-on experience. Applying was easy: I put together my application, submitted it, and heard back about it right away.

When I met with someone from the organization, I expressed my concerns about fitting another thing into my very busy schedule. He reassured me that they would be flexible enough to make it work, and he certainly followed through!

The SCiP internship turned out to be a truly excellent experience. My organization, Volunteer Alberta, was very flexible, and I was able to easily make the internship fit around my school and work commitments. Everyone at the organization was friendly and helpful, and most importantly, I got that hands-on experience in my field that I had signed up for. The chance to develop policy for a small library helped me hone many skills, particularly my research skills, and enhanced my overall knowledge of the field and the nonprofit/voluntary sector. The $1000 bursary at the end is a major perk, but I definitely feel like the experience I gained is worth more than the money.

Now, when people ask how my internship worked out, I tell them to apply themselves! There are a ton of internships to choose from, so there’s bound to be one for anyone’s field of interest, and it’s easy to get involved. And the pay-off is huge: I was able to network with people in my field and gain valuable skills and experience for my resume for the future. Even though I was worried about fitting an internship into my schedule, I didn’t have to be. My organization recognized I was a student, and worked with me to make it a success. I loved my experience and I would highly recommend it!

For more information on SCiP internships visit joinscip.ca or call Sam at 780.482.3300 ext 225.
Alexandria Eldridge

Library Policy Development Intern, Volunteer Alberta

Volunteerism: Two Birds with One Stone

Leland Bobbe/Digital Vision/Getty Images

 

A friend of mine was sharing a conversation she had with her 14 year old, they were talking about résumés, the importance of volunteering and how that can impact future jobs.  It started the wheels turning in my head… is there not enough information available to students in younger grades about volunteering?  Are we leaving it up to our school system to educate our children about volunteerism?  Are there enough resources available for parents to take the strong role of educating our younger generations on the importance of volunteering?

As a parent of an 8 year old and a 5 year old, I am also struggling with instilling strong values around volunteering.  Here are some tips that I thought I would share:

1.    Talk to your child about their strengths and interests. Not every volunteer opportunity fits every teenager. Before searching for organizations that use volunteers, talk to your child about what they would like to do and make a list of possible volunteer activities. Do they like animals? Perhaps the local shelter would be a good start. Does he/she enjoy talking to people? Consider a nearby hospital or retirement home. Try to find volunteer opportunities where your child will thrive. But, don’t be afraid to support your child in trying something new. Sometimes taking a risk can help your child develop entirely new interests and skills. Many times with younger children a parent needs to be there to help.  I can’t think of a better way to bond as a family.

2.    Search for local opportunities. Once you’ve made a list of your child’s strengths and interests, search for opportunities that fit the list. Many communities have structured volunteer programs for adolescents. You can find branches of major nonprofit organizations, such as the Red Cross, on the internet.  Also in Southern Alberta you can check out these Volunteer Centre websites!

•      Volunteer Lethbridge

•      Volunteer Resource Centre – Brooks

•      Volunteer Hanna

3.    Encourage your child to do a “trial run.” Help your child make arrangements for completing a short volunteer trial run before committing to any specific opportunity. The trial period can be anywhere from an afternoon to a week. If at the end of the trial run your child would prefer to choose another volunteer opportunity, help him/her find something that is a better fit.

4.    Help your child stay committed. Once your child commits to a volunteer project, encourage them to stay the course. There are almost always challenges, personality clashes, unexpected needs and alternative activities that look more fun. But, remind your child that they have a responsibility to stick with his/her commitment. Don’t force your child to continue with any program, but make sure you emphasize the importance of meeting obligations.

5.    Talk to your child about their volunteer experiences. Once your child completes his/her volunteer project, talk to them about their experiences and really listen. Discuss their triumphs and their struggles. Then, ask your teen where he/she wants to volunteer next.

With school obligations and multimedia distractions, it isn’t always easy for children to volunteer their time. But, with a little guidance, helping others can have tremendous rewards. It can also be a lot of fun.

A special thanks to about.com for their articles and, of course, Sharon for sharing her parenting experiences!

Until next time,

Amanda Leipert

Knowledge Exchange Coordinator (South Region)

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