Paid internship programme for students a boost to social services sector

Paid internships being offered by one of New Zealand’s largest non-government organisations is hoping to give a much needed boost to the number of people working in the social services sector.

Emerge Aotearoa - a mental health, addictions, housing, peer support, disability and other social services provider, has created a new 12-week Summer Internship Programme to help fill a gap in the market for paid internships and identify future talent. Nine tertiary students have been working with its Health and Disability, Housing, and Lived Experience services in Hamilton and Wellington since November 2023.

Throughout their internships the students have learned about the many career opportunities and variety of roles within the Emerge Aotearoa Group, all of which aim to make a positive difference in people’s lives, empowering whānau and communities to have real options and choices that work for them.

Manager People Experience Strategy and Performance Moana Keiper says more than 200 people applied for the summer internships, and the popularity of the programme proved how much need there was within the social services sector for paid internships. All of the interns have either graduated from tertiary study in a health-related field recently, or were about to graduate.

“The Summer Internship Programme contributes to Emerge Aotearoa’s commitment to nurturing talent, connecting with care, and supporting the people, whānau and communities we serve,” she says. “We’ve really enjoyed working with the diverse group of interns and seeing them grow personally and professionally during their time here.”

Summer Intern Annie George completed her Graduate Diploma in Psychology at the University of Waikato and has been working with a Residential Service in Hamilton as part of the programme. She said the work was very hands on and challenging, which she enjoyed.

“I’m now applying for a casual role at the service, which I can fit around the rest of my study. The people I have met so far have been great. I’ve enjoyed learning from the staff and engaging with the residents, who I’ve built a strong rapport with,” she says.

Another intern, Ethan Mills, is about to complete his Masters’ degree in Psychology at the University of Otago and has been working with the organisation’s Lived Experience team in Wellington to co-design and open a new peer support service in Invercargill. He says one of the things he enjoyed most about the internship was getting to work with people all over Aotearoa and facilitating service design workshops.

“Taking part in the internship has shown me how important lived experience is. There’s so much potential in the area which is something that I’ll take with me in my career and see how to use it as much as possible,” Ethan says. “It has been quite a shift from university but the internship is a good stepping stone into what I do next.”

Applications for the next round of the internship programme will be advertised by tertiary education providers and the Emerge Aotearoa careers website later in the year.