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Why do STEM majors get to have all the fun of internships?

By Rida Warsi

“You’re an Arts major? Aren’t you worried about unemployment?”

via GIPHY

I have often been told as a Social Science and Humanities student that unemployment should be my biggest worry after I graduate because the skills I have learned are considered obsolete in an era of rapidly developing technology. It is believed that there are no jobs in the Arts, and no possible opportunities to gain experience before graduating, despite many companies offering policy analysts, communications and marketing, and public affairs internships - all opportunities that our Social Science and Humanities programs can train us for.

The liberal arts curriculum has often been criticized for not providing their undergraduates with the necessary skills to succeed in the workplace. STEM majors learn technical abilities that they are able to transfer onto the ever-industrializing workforce. What do the humanities bring that can be applied practically? I find that what we learn in the classroom in Social Science is not considered transferable or applicable - even though it is!

While there can be valid critique of the Social Sciences’ curriculum, do not agree with the notion that Arts students do not learn applicable skills that can be transferred to their careers. I would, however, argue that Social Science students are not encouraged to apply the skills they learn in their undergrads to the workforce. Internships are considered essential for those in STEM fields, why is this same mentality not applied to Social Science students? Why are Arts students not equally encouraged to apply the critical thinking, problem-solving, written and communication skills we learn prior to our final years of undergrad through internships?

a GIPHY

If you are wondering, “well who needs any of these skills?” Google conducted research on the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, where STEM expertise comes in last. The top characteristics of success according to Google’s research are communication, good leadership, empathetic and supportive nature towards others, and possessing good critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Sound familiar?

I'll say it again: why are Arts students not equally encouraged to apply the critical thinking, problem-solving, written and communication skills we learn prior to our final years of undergrad through internships?

I don't know enough about the practicum opportunity in Social Science to speak on it - what I do know is that it's not available until fourth year. Why do I have to wait until our fourth year to gain experience, when it is something I could be pursuing after my second or third year? Engineering students usually apply for internships after their third year and spend at least 8 to 12 months gaining technical experience. Business students have the opportunity to gain business experience after they declare a major in second year. Science majors can do research projects or biological/chemical technician internships after their second year as well. So why should Social Science students have to wait until their fourth year to apply what they know and have learned to the real world?

I wanted practical experience before my final year, so I found a placement at the City of Toronto's Youth Spaces, I have only completed training so far, but some of the things I have learned have been very interesting and helpful. For example, they advised that when we are within the Youth Spaces if we begin a conversation with one of the youths, to not offer them career advice because it can appear condescending especially when the advice is not asked or warranted for. This advice alone has changed my perspective on the conversations I have in my everyday personal and professional life. I can't speak too much on my experiences with it as of now, because I begin at the workspace at the beginning of April. Already though the training has been extremely valuable. Through this experience, I get to work to create new methods so the youth can create a voice and vision for themselves.

Employers hire people, not degrees. Your degree does not define you, you define your degree. As a famous innovator of our culture once said, “STEM skills are vital to the world we live in today, but technology alone, is not enough” – Steve Jobs.

I encourage Social Science majors to look into practicum (you can read about other student's experiences with practicum on the Student Speak blog), and also look for relevant internships, fellowships, and work experiences in general. Your experience doesn't have to come from inside of the university! Stay active on LinkedIn, look for opportunities, and don't expect for them to magically come to your lap, talk to your professors who may be able to help you with whatever experience they have, be certain about what you're advocating for and look for opportunities to exemplify that advocacy.