27 February 2018

  |  CBI Scotland


Business-education interaction: introducing doctoral internships

CBI Scotland spoke to Professor Jamie Pearce and Sheena Cummings from the SGSSS about how doctoral internships can be a great way for Scottish businesses to fill short-term skills gaps and attract talent for the future. 

Business-education interaction: introducing doctoral internships

With the UK facing a well-publicised skills shortage across roles in all skill levels it has never been more important to promote better business-education interaction.

On the job training is an excellent way for young people at all educational levels to hone their skills and experience in the real world setting of the workplace. It’s also a fantastic way for companies to develop talent with the skills they need for long term success.

While efforts are underway to improve work experience and vocational training at a secondary school and graduate level, what about those with high levels of qualification?

Postgraduate students, including those with advanced doctoral level degrees are also in need of viable routes from higher education into the world of work. While there can be a perception that all doctoral students are seeking an academic role, many are keen to make the move to the public or private sectors.

Qualified economists, qualitative and quantitative analysts and public policy experts, amongst other social science disciplines, are always in high demand among companies across all sectors.

With that in mind, we spoke to Professor Jamie Pearce and Sheena Cummings from the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science and Doctoral Training Partnerships (SGSSS) about how companies can get involved in the internship programmes.

What does the programme involve?

The Scottish Graduate School for Social Sciences (SGSSS) runs an internship programme where doctoral students partner with non-academic organisations (public or private sector) for a three month period.

During this period the student is fully based with the partner and fully engaged on an agreed set of tasks usually working within a broader team. A fee of £5,500 covers recruitment and management plus the student’s living and travel costs for the duration – funding is provided by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Scottish Funding Council.

How could a social science graduate help your organisation to achieve its goals?

Doctoral students are highly skilled, having received the highest level of academic training, with those schooled in the social sciences bringing first class critical thinking and cutting edge methodological skills to any project. While doctoral candidates in the social sciences possess specific and highly detailed knowledge of certain issues, most will have benefitted from broad-based training making them highly adaptable to the needs of modern businesses.     

How the internship scheme can operate in practice

The SGSSS-Skills Development Scotland Internship Scheme allows experienced researchers to conduct in-depth analysis and research support over a three-month period within the organisation.

There are many benefits for the student in taking part in this scheme which includes; gaining work experience and increasing their employability skills. There are also many benefits to the organisation which include:

  • Being able to address an identified research gap with academic rigour
  • The Intern has access to internal data which would not be accessible externally
  • Get the support of a skilled individual on projects that might not otherwise be undertaken
  • Fresh eyes of skilled individual with potentially novel perspective
  • Create new networking contacts with the academic community
  • This negates the need to hire a consultant, creating value for money

Endorsement from a current PhD Internship manager

“Kane [doctoral intern] made a significant contribution to our work on understanding poverty.  He brought a fresh perspective and suggested ideas and approaches we hadn’t considered. Having a PhD intern was a valuable addition to our team and his work will benefit the wider organisation”.

How to get involved

If your organisation could benefit from such an opportunity then the Scottish Graduate School would love to hear from you by 31st of March 2018. Please contact Sheena Cummings at internships@socsciscotland.ac.uk. If you want to find out more about the SGSSS then you can find them here.

For more information

See the PhD internships video here https://youtu.be/4iPpmo8M6_A