40% of graduate jobs reserved for interns

Eddie Millet 23 January 2014

A recent study on graduate employment has revealed that the top 100 UK companies are reserving up to four out of 10 graduate jobs for student interns, with half of these being graduates who have previously completed internships or work experience with the company.

Encouragingly, the findings, by market research company High Fliers, also note a record number of 11,819 paid internships available in the current academic year, as graduate vacancies are set to increase by 8.7% in 2014. 

David Willetts, Universities Minister, responded saying: “The substantial rise in the number of graduate vacancies demonstrates that confidence in the UK economy is growing and businesses really value the skills the UK’s first-rate graduates can bring to their companies… A degree is still one of the best routes to a good job and a rewarding career.” 

However, High Fliers’ findings indicate that “graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer for their organisation’s graduate programmes.”

This news comes as independent campaign groups such as Intern Aware, step up their warnings that “the UK is at risk of creating a society that throws on the scrap heap those who are unable to intern for free.”

While the government may be doing their best to widen access with paid internships, the competition for these coveted places is stiffer than ever. A YouGov poll in 2011 found that 40% of those interviewed who had thought about applying for an internship had 
reconsidered because they couldn’t work for free, while 39% of those offered an internship had to turn it down for financial reasons. 

Chris Hares Campaigns Manager at Intern Aware told TCS, “It’s crucial that interns should be paid, with a system of fair recruitment. If employers, universities and government see internships as the stepping stone between university and the workplace, they have to work for everyone based on talent, not just for the few who can afford to work for free for months at a 
time or who are well-connected. Many are being shut out of opportunities as a result of this.

“The Government needs to be doing more and start prosecuting companies that break the law by using unpaid interns. It also needs to introduce a new “four week rule” after which internships would always have to be paid, but would allow useful short-term 
work experience to continue.”

Gordon Chesterman, Director of Cambridge University Careers Service, described the way his service ‘hunts and gathers’ employment opportunities for students, securing 5 paid internships at Cambridge-based publishing houses in the past week alone. He also stated “Employers might be suspicious of someone who’s heading for a First and has got absolutely nothing in terms of extra-curricular activities.” 

For students considering an internship, Gradlink is a useful resource; its Cambridge-wide alumni network, available through Cambridge Careers website, can put students in touch with graduates in other industries.