Why internships are good for employers too
Many young people in New Zealand find themselves in a bind when it comes to securing their first job – they can’t get a job because they don’t have the required experience, yet they can’t get the experience because they don’t have a job.

This is where internships are so important. Not only do they give the young job-seeker a taste for the world of work and a chance to use and develop their skills, they also provide valuable experience that they can put on their CVs and use to help secure a permanent role.

Employers who host internships are also finding that interns bring benefits to the organisation itself, such as better recruitment, development of their own staff and the introduction of fresh, new perspectives.

Youth unemployment is usually measured by the proportion of 15 to 24-year olds not in employment, education or training, or NEET. In New Zealand this is currently at its lowest rate since 2008.

Yet, youth unemployment still remains a significant problem, and is more than double the 5.3% unemployment rate of the overall population, according to data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.

The latest available data shows that in February 2016, some 10.9% of Kiwi youth were unemployed, or not in training or education.

New Zealand business and start-up incubator and investor Icehouse takes on a range on interns in finance, investment modelling, IT coding and social media, both within the Icehouse business and in the start-ups it is mentoring.

The benefits to the interns are clear: a better understanding of working in a professional services environment, skills development, an impressive entry on their CV and potentially a job at the end of it.

“We think it’s part of our responsibility to the tertiary institutions that are around us to take on internships, we think it’s the right thing to do to enable people who don’t have experience to get exposure to a work environment,” says Andy Hamilton, Icehouse’s Chief Executive.

But hosting interns also brings benefits to Icehouse.

The first is development of the management and mentoring skills of permanent staff. “What I like about it is that my staff have to manage people and support them,” says Hamilton. “That’s a really good development thing I’ve learned over the years – when we’ve worked with interns it actually helps on the training side.”

He says staff derive a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction from managing interns.

“I have a lot of young people in my organisation and often they have never managed people and to all of a sudden have a young kid that they’ve now got to look after is a really good opportunity for them.”

Interns bring fresh perspectives

He says that interns can bring fresh insights and a new perspective to the business. “It brings an outside perspective and a youth perspective, which gives a lot of energy into the business and it just keeps it fresh,” he says.

The third benefit for Icehouse and its associated businesses is recruitment. Hamilton estimates that about 20% of new hires come from interns.

Tim Sternberg, Marketing and Communications Director – Australia at recruitment firm Randstad, agrees that hosting interns is a very effective way of recruiting top talent who will contribute to the organisation as an employee. “If you identify great talent that match your values, your corporate goals and so forth, they’re more likely to stay and be retained within your business, far beyond what a normal person would that you picked half-way through their career,” he says.

Giving somebody their first job is a “very powerful moment”, which can drive a lot of loyalty towards the employer.

Sternberg says Randstad is currently hosting two interns in its marketing team who have brought new ideas about solving problems. “With young eyes, they’ve really helped us to see different viewpoints and we’re actually now looking at creating a young executive board to help challenge our thinking of a very old way of looking and approaching problems,” he says.

“They completely embrace the technology. They ask questions of why or why not, which most people are sort of afraid to usually ask if given the chance.”

Sternberg says the key to a good internship is having a good mentor within the business, which also provides a good development opportunity for the mentor.

Also, the work the interns should do should go beyond administrative tasks. They should be involved in brainstorming sessions and given the opportunity to work on projects. Sternberg says that the results will quite often be surprising.

Khan Churchill, a youth worker who works with unemployed young people, has seen the impact of youth unemployment – and has also witnessed how transformative a job can be for a young unemployed person.

“It couldn’t be a more marked change in terms of their confidence, in terms of their outlook on the world, their sense of self and their self-esteem,” he says. “Being given an opportunity, even in an entry-level position, you just see people coming along in leaps and bounds.”