Intern Blog: I didn’t think I was eligible and now here I am, nearly a year after my first WeCanWork application with a full-time job offer.

By Mairi Edwards

Phot of Mairi Edwards at Master's degree Graduation

Let me start off my saying that I had never considered myself disabled or as having a learning disability. I had only just been diagnosed when I came across the WeCanWork internships. At first, I did not think that I would be eligible, but after reading more into the programme I realised that my dyslexia and visual stress meant that I could apply for an internship through Inclusion Scotland. At the time of my first application, I was working in retail but due to the covid lockdown I was on furlough. I was also studying a Master’s degree full time which meant I was looking for something quite flexible and related to my degree in Gender Studies.

My first application was for a children’s charity, and I got to the interview stage. Inclusion Scotland immediately reached out to me and offered a mock interview which I accepted. This was done with Alex who was extremely helpful, kind and supportive. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful after the real interview, but this only spurred me on to apply for other positions. I received a small amount of feedback from the charity and more detailed feedback from Inclusion Scotland who sat in during the interview.

A few months later, I received an email from Inclusion Scotland letting me know about another opportunity that would turn into my current internship at Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire (VANL) as their Equality and Human Rights Project Assistant. As the timeline for this was quite short, I was quickly progressed to an interview and was offered the job a few hours later. I started the internship the next week and was supported by Naomi who helped me to better understand workplace adjustments.

The first two months of my internship were very challenging as we had a funding deadline to meet. This meant a lot of long meetings and screen time but once the proposal was in, the position became a lot more manageable. As I was balancing the internship, two work experience placements and my full-time Master’s degree course, at times I often felt quite stressed and overwhelmed. But Naomi was great at reassuring and supporting me throughout the internship.

Over the 8 months or so on this internship I have acquired numerous skills. The first of which is the ability to understand funding proposals and forms. This was the first task that I completed whilst working for VANL. After this, I created text for VANL’s new website on the subject of equality and human rights. The website text was particularly challenging as I had to write in less formal language and try to ignore the academic part of my brain telling me to use fancy jargon. This was one of the most important skills I have learned in my internship: accessible writing. Following the completion of the website text, I took two months off to complete my master’s dissertation. My line manager at VANL, Maddy, was incredibly supportive and flexible, it was actually her idea that I take time off to focus on my degree.

This was part of the reason why I have enjoyed the internship so much, VANL and Maddy have been so incredibly flexible and supportive about my commitments to university and my caring responsibilities. When I returned to work in August, I was set with the task of running an online event to encourage the community and voluntary sector in North Lanarkshire to pay their staff the real living wage. This was very interesting and allowed me to gain a lot of knowledge about event planning and management.

After the successful running of the event, I then began working on a trauma informed practice briefing for VANL staff. This was my favourite of all the tasks I had completed as it was relevant to my degree and allowed me to showcase my knowledge and experience.

The team at VANL have made my experience what it is. They have been with me every step of the way and have offered advice, support and knowledge throughout my internship. I have met with several members of staff both online and in-person and feel I have built strong relationships with many colleagues.

I would like to take this opportunity to first of all thank my line manager, Maddy Halliday who has given me endless support, advice and encouragement over the last 8 months. I would also like to thank Doug, Gordon, Craig, Kirsty and Munro for all of their help with various projects.

Additionally, I would like to thank Naomi at Inclusion Scotland for all of her support. Naomi has been incredible throughout the process and has not only helped me with this internship but with applying for other jobs. She is a credit to Inclusion Scotland and has truly made this experience for me. Naomi’s advice after a mock interview saw me be selected for my first choice of a graduate job which I will be starting in the coming months.

If I was to give advice to any future interns, firstly I would say that if you’re not sure if you’re eligible, please ask. I didn’t think I was eligible and now here I am, nearly a year after my first WeCanWork application with a full-time job offer. Secondly, for those selected for internships, remember that you are not alone and that there is always someone you can talk to. At the start of my internship, I was adjusting to home working and at times felt quite isolated. Naomi was great at supporting me and the other members of staff at Inclusion Scotland are more than happy to lend a hand. And finally, don’t be afraid to apply for more than one internship. I applied for several before I landed this one at VANL. Good luck to all WeCanWork applicants and thank you to Naomi, Inclusion Scotland, Maddy and the VANL team for all of their support.