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What are internships?

Internships are a period of work experience, offered by an organisation, that last for a fixed anount of time. They are typically undertaken by students and graduates wanting to gain relevant skills and experience for their chosen career.

An intern should gain practical skills, workplace experience and greater knowledge of a certain industry, in exchange for the employer benefiting from their work. Although previously unpaid the majority of organisation now pay their interns.

Whether to use a paid or voluntary internship

An internship is typically a work placement that lasts between three and 12 months, depending on the requirements of the organisation. It is an opportunity that is most commonly sought by graduates who have finished their university or college course and are looking for experience in their chosen profession.

Although internships were previously unpaid, many organisations now provide a salary. Whether an internship is paid or voluntary it is common for interns to be reimbursed for their travel and subsistence expenses. Interns that receive a salary are likely to feel significantly more valued by the organisation they are working for and will therefore be more engaged and motivated in their job role.

The Chartered Institute of Professional Development recommend that if an intern is contributing to your organisation, has a list of duties and is working set hours, then technically they should be paid the National Minimum Wage.

Employment rights and internships

An intern's rights depend on their employment status. If an intern is classed as a worker, then they are normally due the National Minimum Wage.

Internships are sometimes called work placements or work experience. These terms have no legal status on their own.

The rights they have, depend on their employment status and whether they are classed as:

  • a worker
  • a volunteer
  • an employee
  • If an intern does regular paid work for an employer, they may qualify as an employee and be eligible for employment rights
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How to recruit great interns

Recruit as if you are recruiting an employee

With most internships now falling into the paid category it is important that organisations select the right people for their internships. Not doing so can make an internship an expensive mistake.

Recruiting interns properly means asking real interview questions, avoid asking cheesy questions or setting un-relevant tasks. Doing so undermines the value of your internship and dents the credibility of your organisation.

Recruit based on potential rather than experience

Most internship candidates are unlikely to have significant levels of experience. By recruiting based on experience you are disadvantaging candidates that have been financially unable to take unpaid internships and as such you will be missing out on some amazing candidates.

Do not discount people that have worked in shops and cafes as this experience can generate a number of transferrable skills.

Market your job post to the very best candidates

It is easy to feel with entry level roles that not as much effort needs to be placed into marketing the job vacancy. However, if you want to get the best candidates for your role it is important that you highlight what the successful intern/s will gain in experience and skills during their time with you.

Consider your audience carefully and where they are most likely to search for job roles. Many internships are now advertised on social media, rather than job boards for example,.

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