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Why Internships Offer University Students Pathway Into Graduate Jobs

Though, there are several paths into graduate jobs for students, from attending job fairs to applying directly to company graduate schemes, one of the most tried and tested ways for many university students is via an internship.


Internships were and have been popularised over several decades in the US, however, these days it is very much a common theme among students in the UK. Just like in the US, they serve as a great way to develop business or industry related skills and work experience while building contacts for the future.


There are different types of internships to serve the vast amount of sectors and businesses that graduates seek to gain suitable employment. Figures from the the highly respected think tank, Sutton Trust indicated there were around 70,000 graduate interns in the UK, with many of these non paid (30%).
Ofcourse, there are many internships throughout the country which offer students paid graduate internships, including the one which I currently work on, the Roehampton Internship Scheme (RIS) in partnership with Santander Universities. Over the last couple of years I have witnessed firsthand how paid internships provide university students with a fast track route not only into employment, but the highly sought after graduate employment market.
Below, I would like to share a few reasons from the viewpoint of the student as to why paid internships are the way forward and why students should take advantage of this great opportunity:
It's All About The Numbers -
Just last year, the graduate numbers were anticipated to be in the region of 300,000 plus, baring in mind that this number does not include those graduates from previous years who are perhaps still searching for 'graduate jobs' it is clear to see that the competition for graduate jobs is huge.
When you also consider that in August 2015, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) put out a statement that mentioned around 59% of graduates were going into 'non graduate jobs, indeed a more recent statement stated: "graduates were colonising non-graduate jobs'. Also, remember and note that no matter what the political or economic landscape, the numbers will continue to increase as many people seek to gain the coveted university degree.
According to the annual review into the graduate market in 2016 by High Fliers Research, it's report indicated: 'the largest individual recruiters of new graduates in 2016 to be Teach First (1,870 vacancies), PwC (1,540 vacancies) and Deloitte (1,100 vacancies)'. A survey from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) found there were 19,732 positions to fill for 2016. Though there was a slight drop in the number of graduate jobs from the previous year in 2015 (21,427 graduate jobs), the overall employment rate is at record levels, indeed it is the highest since records began in 1971, at 74.2% according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Another set of interesting numbers to mull over, according to a recent article, of all students that graduated in 2016, 24% obtained a first class honours degree, in 2012, the figure for students awarded a first was 17%. And, 5% of students graduated with a third in 2016.
In all, the challenge is plain to see as there are certainly not 300,000 'graduate jobs' being produced by employers annually and the competition for these jobs will only get fierce and more competitive.
It is for these reasons that I am convinced one of the ways that university students can truly mark themselves out from the increasing competition is having completed an internship, ideally a paid internship to cover bare living necessities.
2. Unrivalled Work Experience -
The work experience students gain from working in an internship is not like any other as it is truly as 'live' as you can get. Part of the internship agreement with companies is that the student gains exposure to 'real world' work experience and the companies are eager and willing to support the student(s). Not long ago, I visited one of our many supporting companies, a technology company based in South West London, meeting with the managing director recently, he told me he wanted the intern to get immediate experience and understanding of their business, and in the first two weeks of the internship the intern joined the MD in a meeting, observing, while he met with a number of their household name and blue chip clients.
The intern successfully completed the paid internship scheme with the company and was soon offered a permanent job. It really was an amazing story, to see the journey of the graduate, from graduation in the summer and into a graduate job, all in less than 6 months.
3. Boost Your Confidence -
A successful internship serves an excellent confidence booster as it will take you out of your comfort zone. The opportunity to work ground breaking projects and assignments can only do wonders for your confidence. Indeed, one of the reasons why graduates often struggle to find work is their confidence, not necessarily because many graduates lack confidence per se, but often going into the world of work is really for many students a massive leap into the unknown, and for many their new environment can come across as intimidating and unsympathetic.
A few years, we employed a graduate intern to support us in our business, he came across as shy and unassuming, though there was no doubt of his intellect, he had just bagged a first class honours degree after all. The transformation from start to finish was truly remarkable, to see him at the end of his internship, his confidence was clear to see. He had a great attitude to add to his qualities and not surprisingly before he even had completed his internship he had been offered a permanent job on a very good salary.
4. Be The First In Line For Graduate Job Openings -
Recently, I wrote about how one of the key skills for anyone in 2017 looking for work would need, would be: 'How to find a job'. Knowing how to find a job effectively is a skill, and can be a full time and somewhat frustrating chore. The benefit of getting on an internship is that for the student once you have been able to secure an internship it potentially opens you up to many more graduate job opportunities whilst you are completing your internship. In my experience working with employers, large and small, trust is a big thing, and if as an intern you have demonstrated that you can be trusted with their business, their clients and projects, then you are much better positioned than anyone on the outside who might be hoping to get a graduate job with the same company.
You save yourself so much work and effort looking for work in the end, in part because you are already inside the company, one foot in the door, so to speak, an internship catapults you ahead of the graduate queue, perhaps unfairly, but true.
5. Gain Invaluable Experience Engaging With Business People -
Apart from the indispensable experience students gain from working on company projects and assignments, the internship offers students an opportunity of engaging with the business world.
Talking to other business colleagues and companies on a regular basis gives the student great confidence and prepares them for the future. Once, I asked one of our graduate interns, what did she learn the most from her internship, her reply was: 'Confidence in speaking to business people'. Not long after completing her internship she secured a temporary contract which became permanent, working for one of the largest companies in the world, based in the city of London.
6. Opportunity To Meet New People And Build Your Contacts -
Less than a year ago, I attended an event held in one of the suites in the house of commons. It was an event which brought many people together from the business world and included a few government ministers who were in attendance. It was what one of the ministers said that got my attention, he said: 'Young people needed to learn how to find employment in today's climate, for instance,whether it be through friends, contacts or the old boys network'. It got my attention as I actually agreed with him, as said earlier, finding a job is a skill, and it is not until you have to find work that you get to understand how not only long the process can be, but somewhat difficult too. An internship, makes finding graduate jobs comparably easier.
There are many more reasons why internships offer university students one of the most effective routes into graduate jobs, the list above is just a selective handful.
My advice would always be for university students to aim for paid internships especially with the cost of living, the money is not only an incentive it is the right thing to do. There are many paid internship schemes, one that I will recommend is the Roehampton Internship Scheme (RIS).
For a list of current paid internships through RIS, visit www.unitemps.com (please note the RIS internships are open to University of Roehampton students and alumni only).

Looking for work? Visit - www.unitemps.com

Unitemps is the University owned temporary staffing service providing opportunities on campus and with local commercial businesses for students, recent graduates and people from the local community. Of the sector, for the sector, Unitemps combines a ‘student welfare’ ethos with efficient systems and a professional approach. All revenues generated are re-invested into the University and campus facilities. We are growing through our quality, ethical and community approach, mirroring the aspirations of our institution. We currently have offices at 14 university locations.”

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