Each year, Skills Development Scotland takes on a number of PhD interns – people studying towards a PhD in Scotland who take three months away from their main research to take part in a paid research internship.
The work that they do might be part of a larger body of work and could go on to influence policy or effect change within the world of work and skills in Scotland.
Strathclyde University PhD candidate Rebecca McCartan joined SDS in March of this year to undertake an internship.
She said: “I wanted to get a flavour of something else that wasn’t university. Having gone from my undergraduate degree to my master’s degree to my PhD, everything I had done research-wise had been within a university. I wanted to get some experience of working in research outwith a university environment.”
Rebecca, who is from Glasgow, spent her internship working with the SDS evaluation and research team, analysing the data from the recent Apprenticeship Wellbeing Survey.
“The focus of it was to look at more of the softer outcomes for Modern Apprentices in addition to career progression and personal development,” she explained.
“The project itself is really interesting as it’s quite a new area. It’s also great to work on a project that will have implications for policy and services.”
Rebecca’s PhD work focuses on psychology, specifically around behaviour change in drivers – so the apprenticeship research was quite different for her, but she enjoyed getting a taste of something different and seeing how research is conducted and used outside of academia.
She added: “It’s been beneficial to use the skills I’ve learned during my university degrees in a different area to my PhD research. It has also increased my employability skills as it provided me with the opportunity to work on multiple projects at once and work to tight deadlines.
“It was also great that I was integrated into the team by getting to be involved in group activities. The team were really welcoming, helpful and friendly, which made the entire internship experience more enjoyable.
Rebecca continued: “Before doing the internship, I didn’t have much experience of working in a research environment outside of academia so I wasn’t sure whether I would like it or not. But it’s definitely an option for me now, as I enjoyed every minute of it.
“It has made me more open to the idea of working outside of a university. I would definitely recommend undertaking an internship at SDS during your PhD, as it’s an amazing opportunity to learn new skills in a supportive and encouraging environment.”