“A richer workplace”: Why this creative agency is launching a paid internship program for over-55s


Thinkerbell chief executive Margie Reid. Source: supplied.

Aussie creative agency Thinkerbell has launched a new eight-week internship program with a twist — it’s only accepting applications from people aged 55 or over.

The Thive@55 program is intended to help close a pertinent age gap in the advertising, media and public relations industry, globally, in which just 5% of employees are over 50.

“Our older generation is massively underrepresented in the advertising industry, and have a lifetime of experience to bring to our agency, and our industry,” Thinkerbell’s head of culture, operations and people Emma O’Leary said in a statement.

“We want our staff and clients to benefit from people with years of life experience, and vice versa.”

The agency is looking for interns to join both its Sydney and Melbourne teams, and while chief executive Margie Reid is looking for the benefit of experience, she’s not getting hung up on exactly what that experience entails.

“We’re not looking for somebody necessarily that’s come from a creative agency previously,” Reid tells SmartCompany.

“There may be someone who has an amazing talent that has never been tapped into from a workforce point of view that could bring a whole new perspective to our agency and our team.”

The internship launched just this morning, and the response so far — from the Thinkerbell team as well as its competitors and those in its professional networks — has been overwhelmingly positive, Reid says.

One person responded saying they’re “like a 25-year-old, but with 30 years’ experience” Reid laughs.

“That’s the mindset and the energy — that’s what they bring.”

Diversity is good business

Reid acknowledges that age diversity is just one small part of the diversity and inclusion conversation.

“We’ve been looking at our diversity and inclusion as an industry, and more specifically as an agency, and for us, it’s a bigger issue,” she explains.

“There are so many different cohorts that need representation.”

But, she sees this internship program as a starting point.

Bringing more racial and cultural diversity into the industry, for example, is “a bigger issue to tackle, and needs more work”, she says.

While improving age diversity within the Thinkerbell team is intended to boost the company’s culture of inclusivity, there are also economic benefits to be reaped.

Already, Reid says diversity of thought and personality is celebrated at the agency.

“Everything we do is to make sure our culture is the strongest it possibly can be,” Reid says.

The business has an ethos of “stay unicorn”, she explains.

“Just stay who you are. It doesn’t matter what you are, that’s what we celebrate.”

Having a more diverse group of employees means more diversity of ideas. That allows the team to solve problems faster, to pitch better ideas to clients, and to think more open-mindedly, Reid suggests.

“It’s about celebrating whatever an individual brings,” she adds.

“Ultimately, everybody brings something that hopefully will lead to a commercial outcome.”

And, while she doesn’t know exactly what the business benefits of this internship will be, the chief executive is fairly confident they will be there.

“I think there will be a commercial element to it. I don’t know what it is right now,” she says.

“If it becomes something that’s ongoing and we become a richer workplace for it, then that to us will be a big success.”

NOW READ: ‘Age gives you a huge advantage’: The benefits of founding a business later in life

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