Internships: What is an Internship?

InternsA dictionary will describe an intern as a student or recent graduate undergoing supervised practical training, but working understandings of the term vary wildly. Whether an internship should be paid or unpaid, if an intern can be a core member of staff and how long an internship might last are all areas of debate.

While some interpretations of an internship can describe a great resource for any small business, others are unconstructive for both you and the young person who comes into your office.

Instant Impact Interns is a recruitment agency that unites SMEs with the very best students and graduates. We have extensive experience advising the businesses we work with how to brand their internships most effectively.

Here is how we suggest you define an “internship” to be the most productive for your business:

Where work experience is a chance to watch and learn, an intern should take on important tasks

The law states that a work experience placement cannot include work a company does not have the facilities to complete themselves. By contrast, internships can be a fantastic way to realise some of the projects a small company might have discussed, but been too frantic to investigate.

An internship should be paid, if you are taking advantage of the opportunity for an extra pair of hands

This is a hotly debated topic, but our view is that an intern’s valuable contribution to a business should be financially recognised. If the work you are delegating to them is important enough to recruit especially then it deserves payment! As a company we request at least minimum wage, but recommend the London living wage.

An internship is more than one month, but less than six

It’s really important that anyone new to your business has enough time to get their feet under the table. Learning all the systems you use, understanding your business model and making a positive contribution takes a few months. On the other end of the spectrum an intern will be paid less than a salaried member of staff, and they won’t work well if they feel the professional relationship is in any respect exploitative.

An internship is an opportunity for a young person to be trained

The strength of recent graduates is that they are fast learners. They represent potential, as opposed to an existing skill set (although the business experience some students have gained at university is remarkable). Investing time in an internship at the start of their time with you will quickly pay off.

Next time: the practicalities of how to hire an intern

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