The Truth About Internships

js1024_ZakDuring my 2nd year at Uni some students that were on placements gave a talk on how they felt their placement was going. They all experienced different areas of expertise – some were doing fashion, interiors, marketing and buying etc… But they all had one thing in common – they all commented on the fact their placement year gave them a better understanding and focus on what to create in their final year.

Being a student myself who is currently on placement with Scarlet Opus, it made me think about and evaluate my time working for a company compared to Uni life.  So I decided to interview other design students who are also on placements and ask them to reflect on their time as Interns:

Gemma textThe 1st student I interviewed was Gemma Tovey who is currently a student on the ‘Surface Design for Fashion & Interiors’ course at the University of Huddersfield.  She is over half way through her placement year. She has done lots of different placements so far covering both the Interiors and Fashion sectors, and ranging from a weeks placement to 3 months.  This has included placements with Muraspec, Scarlet Opus, Ege Carpets, Me & Thee, Topshop, and her current placement at Marks & Spencer:

ZI: How are you finding your placement year?

GT: Overall I am finding my placement year very interesting and inspiring.  So far I have gained a really positive experience seeing the range of career paths/opportunities, which are available within the industry. I also feel it has been a good experience working in a different environment from University, meeting and working with other like-minded designers.

ZI: Is it what you expected?

GT: Having never previously worked in the Fashion or Interiors industry before my placement year I was quite unsure about what to expect. However having now being on a few different work placements I have found various aspects to be as expected but there were also areas within the companies I did not expect. For example I have worked with both large and small-scale design teams, working to different time scales and seasons using different design methods to suit their target customer:

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ZI: Would you recommend other students to pursue a placement or go straight to final year?

GT: I would definitely recommend a placement year to other students although it can be quite difficult at times, a work placement really gives you a higher, more realistic understanding of the industry and what is expected of you once you graduate.  Whilst more personally, I feel it has also helped make me more prepared for my final year developing both my design and personal confidence. It is also a great opportunity to gain some feedback and advice from the people in the industry and develop some contacts.

ZI: What advice would you give to companies who offer Internships?

GT: I would say it is really important to make real use of placement students so they can have the opportunity to learn and develop new skills.  From my own experience I have found that practically taking part in set briefs has helped make me more focused, interested and eager to get involved. I would also encourage companies to be open, welcoming and willing to answer questions.

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Kimberley text

The 2nd student is Kimberley Harrington, who is a 23 year old 3rd year student on the ‘BSc (Hons) Textile Design for Fashion & Interiors’ degree course. In September 2012 she started to work with an automotive interior design company called Sage Automotive based in Bury, north Manchester:

ZI: What skills have you learnt and how will they help in your final year?

KH: So far, half way through, I feel like my eyes have really opened to how this area of the textile world works.  I have an ever improving understanding of the automotive fabric production process and general critical timing … due to our fabrics and finishing being carried out in different areas of Europe, this can really play havoc with getting samples to design meetings on time, and makes having our own Uni assignments in on time look like a piece of cake.

ZI: What were the incentives for going for a placement year?

KH: I had reservations when starting my placement about what I would be spending my 11 months doing exactly.  In the interview I was asked did I understand that the role involved a lot of chopping and filing of fabrics for the many different customers. However at the back of my mind was, was I really choosing the right words as there were many other placements available that seemed at the time to be more exciting; but a bonus was that this was a paid placement in Manchester – an area I was familiar with. What I did understand was automotive design involved travel and this was a huge appeal. I also come from a sales background and enjoy working with people. So ‘automotive’ seemed a good choice for a placement experience as it involves many global customers and companies.

ZI: Has the placement met your expectations?

KH: When I accepted the offer I was still a little anxious but can safely say I have never looked back! In my first week I was introduced to a new embellishment development project which, little did I know at the time, was to become my own main project! This alone, in my 2nd week, took me to Brussels to attend a meeting at Toyota Engineering headquarters. Since then I have also worked on the recoloring of current production fabrics, designing new embossing plates, attending design brief meetings with customers, trend research (including trips to MooD & Heimtextil trend shows), and benchmarking, alongside the usual studio work of designing, re-creating and archive work.

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Faye text

The final student I’ve interviewed is Faye Ruth Seale who is studying ‘Surface Design for Fashion and Interiors’ at the University of Huddersfield, and she went straight into her final year studies without doing a placement in industry:

ZI: As a future designer what do you feel is going to be the next big thing in terms of themes, patterns and colours for the Interiors market?

FS: I think integrating patterns and repeats are the future, referring to the economy to try and make the designs more interesting and have more depth to them, and using pastel colours to lighten up the mood but still using neutral colours.

Have a look at our Getting Nude blog for inspiration on using pastel and neutral colours.

ZI: Do you feel by going straight into your final year studies it has given you a disadvantage compared to the students who went on placements?

FS: Yes it has.  The main reason I came to this University was because of the placement year, and I turned down another University and course because of it.  If I was given a placement I feel I would have learnt a lot more and gained so much more experience rather than jumping straight into my final year.

ZI: What was the reason for going straight into final year and were you ready?

FS: The reason I went straight into my final year was because I could only get a 2 week placement and even then I couldn’t do it as I could not afford the rent as it was in London.  I do not feel like I was ready to go straight into my final year as I feel I still have so much to learn before I go into industry.

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I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the students who have taken the time to contribute to today’s blog post. I hope this has helped many of you who are either thinking of looking for internships with companies or for businesses who are considering hiring student interns – just think how you would be responsible for helping future designers develop their understanding within business!

zakandvIt really has been a brilliant experience for me. I came in with no experience and skills of working in industry but over the 5 months so far I have gained confidence in my approach to work. I have always been a grafter but the company have now made me feel confident as they set the task and they leave me to create and offer advice when I most need it. They have boosted my self-esteem and belief in my designs. They see me as part of the team and value my opinions.

Some students may experience positive outcomes whereas others may not but all experience it valuable, not every business has the same method of teaching and their approach will be different. I can thankfully say my experience has been very promising and I don’t have any regrets doing my placement!

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