An industry internship might be a daunting experience, but the learning experiences and all-encompassing opportunities in a fast-paced small business environment make it all worthwhile.
Many people would find walking into a cold room laden with carcasses, cleavers and stainless steel benches a little daunting, but for this Food and Agribusiness student, this was an environment for learning and opportunities.
Ms Georgia Campbell undertook her internship at boutique sustainable butchery, Feather and Bone. Their surprising mantra is ‘eat less meat’. The butchery also believes in quality over quantity, eating a variety of cuts and knowing where the meat comes from.
I now understand the importance of knowing where our food comes from, and how important it is for people to know how their food is produced.
“Feather and Bone was an incredibly interesting experience for me as it revolutionised the way I approach food and agricultural systems. I now understand the importance of knowing where our food comes from, and how important it is for people to know how their food is produced.
“I think the educational opportunities Feather and Bone provides for their customers is invaluable, and more companies should be aiming to provide this kind of information about provenance,” Georgia said.
Grant Hilliard is the founder and owner of Feather and Bone. He had an existing relationship with the Food and Agribusiness students, speaking to second year students about his business, the ways in which it is different to conventional butchers, and providing an insight into the agricultural practices of the farmers that supply them. This presentation made an impression on Georgia, sparking her interest in interning with the company.
“We always hope that everyone who comes into contact with Feather and Bone, whether as an intern or a customer, or as a reader of our newsletter, or maybe as a participant in one of the classes we run, leaves with a clearer sense of the interconnectedness of food production and environmental and human health; the importance of maintaining and enhancing soil fertility and the associated benefits that accrue socially, environmentally and economically from that practice.
"In Georgia’s case the nascent understanding was already there but hopefully that understanding would be further illuminated by the specific practices she got to know in her internship, that included abattoir, farm and producer visits,” said Grant Hilliard.
Georgia has become an advocate for this small business, and has also used her learning experience to egg herself on in her final year. The topic of Ms Campbell’s research project was directed by her internship experience.
“My placement helped me realise that I wanted to embark upon a research project on eggs. My fourth-year project is looking at different production systems, such as caged, barn-raised or free-range, and whether this influences the quality of eggs, both physically and nutritionally,” said the Food and Agribusiness student.
Having someone come in from outside the organisation makes you re-examine your assumptions and processes; which we found a useful exercise
Undertaking a long internship can be a daunting experience, but the benefits in personal growth, quick thinking, business sense and working collaboratively are apparent.
“I of course found elements of the internship challenging, but this only helped me in the long run. I learnt to be resilient and proactive in the workplace, and I had to learn quite quickly, a skill which will help me in any job situation. Working in a small team also reinforced the importance of communication and accountability - ideas which I now understand are crucial to the work environment. The main thing I learnt throughout my internship is how flexible you need to be when working in the industry.
“In my time at Feather and Bone I was involved in all the different aspects of this small business including production, operations, retail and events, and there was a ‘learn as you go’ approach.
“Having a longer internship also meant that I was able to focus on several larger projects rather than just random jobs, so I got to experience all aspects of the workplace quite thoroughly.
“I was able to make some great contacts and network with some industry leaders,” Georgia said.
“As Feather and Bone is a small business with around ten employees, each person has a profound effect on the business and its mood. Georgia was able to work well with all of our existing employees. Having someone come in from outside the organisation makes you re-examine your assumptions and processes; which we found a useful exercise. It certainly isn’t a case of us imparting knowledge and it being absorbed uncritically by the intern, and like any successful relationship, relies on mutual respect and the willingness to engage,” Mr Hilliard said.
Georgia was offered a summer job after completing her three-month placement.
“Georgia is a resourceful and self-reliant woman who understands the importance of processes in a small business and was good with customers of the business as well, allowing us to employ her in a front-of-house role following her internship,” Grant said.
“I was really glad to continue on with the company because it meant I could resume with my own projects that I started during my internship, such as working to install solar panels and minimising the company’s waste,” she said.
Students have found the internship, and experiencing the workplace an incredibly valuable venture. Equally so for the businesses involved. Feather and Bone are taking on another intern in 2017.
“Having an opportunity to work in the industry is beneficial as it allows students to realise what they might want to direct their career towards.
“I hope to work in an area that combines nutrition, production systems and food security. With so many of the world’s resources being depleted, it is essential we begin to reshape the way we produce our food, particularly with a growing global population. Alongside this I hope to combine the aspect of nutrition, particularly as there is an increasing burden of double malnutrition around the world. Ideally, I would like to work to help people all over the world have access to safe, nutritious food.”
Karl Sternberg found that fitting within the organisational culture of his host business provided a platform for constructive discussions and opportunities to learn, innovate and set a standard for new interns.