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OU Virtual Internship Project wins Student Engagement Award

The Open University’s ‘Virtual Internships for Underrepresented Students – exploring opportunities for student co-creation and partnership’ project has won the sparqs (Student Partnerships in Quality Scotland) Student Engagement Award in the ‘Diverse Voices’ category.

For the past two years, this pioneering scheme has been offering unique opportunities for flexible, paid work experiences for Open University (OU) students.

It’s a collaborative OU-wide initiative between the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and the Faculty of Business and Law (FBL), in partnership with the Careers and Employability Service.

Promoting inclusivity

The Virtual Internship scheme is particularly focused on students with protected characteristics, ensuring equal access to valuable work experience. The programme aims to bridge the gaps in graduate outcomes and promote inclusivity.

The internships are designed to enhance personal and career development while addressing the graduate outcome gaps that often affect underrepresented students.

As a distance learning institution, working collaboratively with students can be challenging because they are often already in other work or have competing demands on their time. Virtual internships have proven to be a solution to this as it allows the OU to work closely with students, pay them, and help them develop graduate skills.

OU talent

Businesses across the UK are boosting their workforces with OU talent. These internships are structured and supervised, focusing on projects with real-world impact, enhancing employability skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork.

They are also flexible as the duration can be customised over a four-month period, typically part-time, with a maximum of 280 hours. All interns are employed through an agency and receive payment at the UK’s ‘living wage,’ ensuring fair compensation for their invaluable contributions.

Uplifting experience

Norain Imtiaz, an intern who worked with the STEM Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility team, spoke about her internship experience:

I joined this internship programme to bring about positive change for students from underrepresented backgrounds. My experience has been uplifting, improving my communication skills and helping me secure a position in a teacher training programme.”

Catriona Bergman, another intern in the same team, said:

For the first time since I left secondary school, I have an idea about what I want to do with my future. I have some real direction, and – most importantly – I know what I need to do to achieve that goal.”

The Student Engagement award was received by the OU STEM faculty’s Associate Dean, Diane Butler, and Deputy Associate Dean, Andrew Potter, at a ceremony in Edinburgh celebrating sparqs’ 20th birthday. Andrew said:

“It’s been a privilege to work with our student interns, showing us just how incredibly talented our OU students are. This scheme shows us what we can achieve when students and staff from across the University work together for everybody’s mutual benefit.”

This article was originally published on The OU news website; click to read the original article.

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