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Why more businesses should adopt an internship culture

More students are signing up for paid internships than ever before but the same isn’t true for businesses keen to hire interns.

In excess of 3000 students have already expressed interest in this year’s Summer of Tech (SoT) and Summer of Biz (SoB), New Zealand’s most popular paid summer internship programme. HRNZ is offering a Communciations & Events Internship again this summer.

The final number is expected to top last year’s figure of 5183 students, yet last year only 83 businesses signed up to be part of the programme. This small number is despite the success of the programme, with just over 80 per cent of businesses going on to employ their interns full time.

SoT Chief Executive Trent Mankelow says the expected growth in student numbers adds pressure on graduates looking to get their first step on their career ladder.

“Last year, of the thousands of students who were keen to take part, we were only able to place 242 interns at 83 businesses, the majority of which were in Wellington.

“This needs to improve. Getting that all important first job is a real challenge for most graduates. A summer internship, working for a company in your chosen field, is a major confidence and experience boost for students.

“But it’s not just about giving students opportunities. The common misconception businesses have about taking on interns is that they take too much time to train and don’t add enough value. But when you look at how many of our employers go on to employ their interns into full time roles, that completely steamrolls that argument.”

Mr Mankelow says the key to hiring good interns is no different to recruiting for any other role. Ensure you pick the best person for the job.

“We work really hard through SoT and SoB to help match the right interns to the right roles and businesses.”

Janella Espinas became a SoT intern at Xero in 2010 after finishing her second year at Victoria University. Two years later she joined the company as a junior developer and has since progressed to a team lead role. She says the internship provided invaluable experience.

“I hadn't coded before university, other than building a few dinky little HTML websites for myself and my family. So picking up a practical, real-world job only two years into my time in software development was huge for my career. Being able to develop on the job really kick-started my technical skills.”

Ms Espinas says there’s a big payoff for companies who employ interns.

“You get a pipeline of amazing talent which leads to big time savings in sourcing the next generation of junior talent.”

Summer of Tech provides a huge amount of training, workshops, and bootcamps to ensure interns are very well-prepared and motivated. For example, last summer there were 115 bootcamps with more than 4000 attendees.

WellingtonNZ Chief Executive and HRNZ Board Member Lance Walker says boosting the number of students being handpicked for internships is reliant on more businesses committing to the programme.

“We want Wellington to be a leader in this area. Educating, developing and retaining local talent is a core element of Wellington’s economic development – and internship programmes are an increasingly important part of that.

“We thank those companies already offering internships but ask those that aren’t to give it a go. Your next ‘star’ could be waiting.”