Chances are, everyone reading this has been ‘the intern’ at some point in their life. Internships are a rite of passage that most uni students or recent graduates need to get valuable work experience before they enter the real world.
Although pop culture would have us believe that interns spend most of their time grabbing coffees or taking notes at meetings, a new study reveals their true value. The Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) surveyed 200 businesses representing more than 3 million staff and almost 20,000 graduates in the UK. What they found was that internships are key to retaining top talent.
Graduates who began their career as interns stay with a company longer than those who weren’t. On average, graduates entering the workforce stay with their first employer for 4.4 years, but graduates who were formerly interns stayed with a company six months longer than those who weren’t.
“This adds weight to the anecdotal claim that candidates with work experience add more value to employers in the long run,” says Stephen Isherwood, chief executive, AGR. “These findings underline the value of work placement students to employers, as we’re seeing graduates who were previously interns stay longer with their organisations.”
However, the survey also revealed that many graduates would leave a company if their career expectations aren’t met. Only 53 per cent of employers surveyed measured the rate of progression of new hires in a five-year time span, and only 47 per cent of organisations trained managers on how to support graduates in their job role.
Employers need to take a more rigorous approach to developing young talent, Isherwood says. “Of course, there are a variety of reasons that graduates decide to leave a company, but employers looking to improve retention need to be holistic in their approach and manage expectations,” he says. “Ongoing communication about career paths would also be beneficial.”
Internship programs need some TLC to make them successful, but the benefits are there. A 2008-2009 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that of the 68 per cent of interns offered full-time positions at the end of an internship, 83.6 per cent accepted. Additionally, 40 per cent of employers reported a higher five-year retention rate among employees they hired after internships.
With the youth unemployment rate hovering around 12 per cent, internships are a great way for businesses to lend a helping hand to the next generation of employees.
Are you a young HR professional looking for work experience, or does your company want to start an internship program? Click here to learn more about AHRI’s work experience placement program.