Should you take on a summer intern?

Managing people

14 October 2016

Whether you're planning to grow your business or need an extra pair of hands for your current workload, an intern could be the perfect solution.

With summer underway and an army of university, school and college students seeking experience, now is the time to assess whether your company can and should take on an intern.

The benefits

From ACCA to UCL, many organisations understand the advantages businesses can gain from internships. They include:

  • An extra pair of hands. Boost capacity in busy spells or on big orders by bringing in enthusiastic interns keen to experience your line of work.
  • New perspectives and skills. As well as being tech savvy and having a different slant on life, students and graduates are more entrepreneurial than ever: 34% more graduates set up businesses in 2014 than the preceding year. Take advantage by assigning interns to new projects to push your business forward.
  • Fresh talent. Recruitment is a challenge for any growing company, and an internship will help you identify and attract talented future employees.
  • Reputation and relationships. Internships are a great opportunity to engage with local education institutions, which brings benefits when it comes to new ideas, new business and recruitment.

The drawbacks

Despite the many benefits, it's worth taking the time to consider the implications for your business:

  • Risk. Interns aren't a replacement for experienced employees. Their lack of experience brings risks, from making mistakes to health and safety issues and, if you're not paying properly, they might not even turn up.
  • Training time. Once you bring someone in, you'll need to ensure they're up to the tasks you set, and that they get something out of it too. This will take time and energy.
  • Expense. If you offer an unpaid internship, you're severely limiting your talent pool and may even be breaking National Minimum Wage laws. Make sure you know the rules, and meet your objectives.

Rules and regulations

Summer interns all fall into one of three employment status categories, each of which has different rights and responsibilities. These are:

  • Volunteer/work experience placement. Students undertaking mandatory work experience for their course, volunteers working for a charity or voluntary organisation (as opposed to a business) and interns who are shadowing employees rather than working themselves don't fall under National Minimum Wage requirements.
  • Workers are doing a job for your business, on a written or verbal contract, and are entitled to minimum wage, statutory minimum breaks, holiday and sick pay among other basic rights listed on
  • Employees are workers on an official employment contract. In addition to basic workers’ rights, they're entitled to protection against unfair dismissal, the right to request flexible working, time off for emergencies and redundancy pay.

Finding the right intern

Once you've made the decision, it's time to look at hiring. If you want to build long-term relationships, get in touch with local colleges and universities. Business bodies and local chambers of commerce who run initiatives like National Internship Week are also good contacts.

For short-term solutions, it can pay to be innovative, and if you're advertising your intern positions online, don't forget to try social media campaigns.

Be creative and give interns a taste of what they can expect and you'll find it much easier to attract top talent.