Whether you are a recent graduate or have been made redundant, internships provide a great way of increasing your work experience and adding practical skills to your CV. There is an abundance of internship opportunities out there at present. Businesses, in partnership with the government, have made a wide variety of internships available. Internships can be advertised in a number of different ways; from company websites, to graduate fairs, recruitment websites, and the government website ‘JobBridge’. The ‘JobBridge’ internships provide opportunities across a range of industries and are 6-9 months in length. There are currently 6030 interns on placement through the scheme, and there are a further 2346 internships available. An independent report was released on the success of the ‘JobBridge’ program thus far. It found that almost 17,000 people have participated in the program since its inception, with 61% going to secure full-time employment within 5 months of completing their internship. Of that 61%, 26% were kept on by the same employer. Despite this positive endorsement a degree of caution needs to be taken when using ‘JobBridge’, as a small number of the internships posted on the website are not of a high enough quality to provide an intern with useful work experience. The vast majority, however, are good opportunities for someone seeking work-experience. The acid test for an internship is that you should gain skills and experience that will make you significantly more employable after the internship.

Internship programmes often face a degree of criticism for benefitting from low-cost labour. This is a misleading assessment of the value that an internship can bring to the employee, as well as the employer. Companies faced with tightening budgets do view internship programmes as a useful way of increasing the workforce, without adding greatly to the wage burden. It can be an affordable way to add fresh talent to an organisation and improve its overall performance. However, this is not a pure cash saving exercise either. Employers will often retain an intern in a paid, full-time position if they are impressed by the candidate, as the above ‘JobBridge’ statistics attest. Many of the large multinational firms invest in an internship programme specifically to help recruit the best young talent.

There are numerous benefits for individuals willing to participate in an internship programme. Whether you are unemployed or entering the job market for the first time, an internship can enhance your career prospects. It can provide you with a chance to sample a career, without entering into a long term commitment. If you are unemployed, it can help to build confidence that may have disappeared as a result of losing your previous job. If you are a recent graduate, it can provide you with valuable job experience to put on your CV, and give you the opportunity to apply what you learned in education in a real-world setting. Regardless of your circumstances, it will give you the chance to learn some new skills, and expand on your current skillset. Carefully select the internships you apply to, the value of an internship is in the quality of the work-experience it gives you. Employers will want to know how the experience benefitted you. It is also a valuable networking tool. An employer may wish to keep you on themselves, or they can provide you with a reference to help you secure your next job. Recent graduates benefit because employers are more likely to hire someone who is not completely unfamiliar with a work environment. It gives an employer the confidence that you can cope with a professional job, and keep pace with a busy work schedule. For those who are returning to work, it gives them a more recent job reference that will give employers a clearer indication of where the candidate stands in terms of their current skills and work ethic.

Internships remain a valuable tool in bridging the gap between the experience employers’ seek when hiring someone, and a candidate’s comparative inexperience. They provide a quick solution to this lack of suitable experience. If you are a recent graduate, unemployed, or are seeking to change careers, then an internship will provide you with a strong introduction to your chosen profession and add significantly to your skillset.

In summary, there has been a lot of debate recently about the value and relative success of the Governments JobBridge programme. After reviewing the recent INDECON Economic report and talking to some people who have taken up JobBridge internships I am convinced they are a good initiative and are worth persisting with. I would like to see the scheme being policed more stringently to ensure that internships are of real benefit to the individual. I also feel that there needs to be a mechanism to transition from unpaid intern to full-time employee. As things stand it is an all or nothing model. Maybe an apprenticeship style programme could be implemented that would allow JobBridge participants to move into a full-time role but without the employer having to take on the cost of a full-time employee. While JobBridge is not perfect it is still a positive initiative and any measure taken to try and tackle unemployment is to be welcomed and supported.

Niall Murray

Managing Director

Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services