Apart from the discovery of natural gas, we haven’t heard positive economic news here in Cyprus for a good while. For the past two years, local companies have been challenged with deteriorating business conditions, which caused many of them to freeze or cut salaries, and in some cases even reduce staff and increase the workload on those who have kept their jobs. The morale of the existing employees is at the moment at its lowest level, – which in turn negatively affects the business, creating a vicious circle. Is it possible that local companies are ignoring one good opportunity that the crisis has delivered?
With unemployment on the rise, many young people realize that their chances to get a job will improve considerably if, apart from a degree, they can also acquire some work experience. So they seek internships. Many universities, colleges and business schools see internships as an important part of learning experience and help their students to find an appropriate placement with a company. The interests of both an intern and an educational institution are clear, but what about a company? Why does it make sense to encourage internships? In other words, how can an intern add value?
In countries like the US and the UK, internships are nothing unusual. In fact, ever since the financial crisis of 2008 has hit their economies, internships have been steadily on the rise. Promoted by universities and often supported by government, unpaid internships are an attractive proposition for businesses. Companies in the US and the UK are making good use of such an opportunity, and here is why.
Five Reasons to Invite Interns
1. By using an intern you get a chance to test out new ideas with minimum or no cost. For example, an intern who is enrolled in a master’s business programme, like the MSc in Management at CIIM, will collect for you valuable information about your customers and competitors, perform useful analysis and make relevant comparisons with similar projects elsewhere.
2. Interns may take certain load off your regular employees, though it is important to maintain the right balance between creative tasks and routine duties. Internship should be a valuable educational experience for the intern.
3. Hosting an intern provides you with a pair of fresh eyes. Very often simple obvious things can make a difference, but over time we may lose the ability to notice them. In such a case a fresh opinion of an intern-outsider can be very helpful.
4. Interns may help you out with improving your company’s online presence, especially in social media. Most young people have advance experience in browsing internet. Their advice on your web page and the Facebook presence shouldn’t be underestimated.
5. Finally, having an intern will be healthy for the overall mood of your employees since a typical intern is a young, enthusiastic individual who is keen to make a good impression. You will be pleasantly surprised to have this unexpected source of positive energy and optimism among your staff.
Paid or Unpaid?
According to Robin Richards, the CEO of Internships.com, only 34% of all internships are paid.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of the US lists specific criteria which determine whether an internship qualifies as an unpaid one. The general idea is that the internship is a training experience (as opposed to just performing certain routine tasks), and this experience is for the benefit of the intern. Furthermore, “the intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.”
Finally, there is a condition that the intern “is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.” It does not mean that the company is not allowed to hire its interns later after the internship is over. This in fact often happens. Instead, it means that unpaid internships generally should not be used by the employer as a trial period for individuals seeking employment. If that is the case, the internship should be paid.
There is every indication that internships represent an excellent opportunity for companies. Hosting interns will help you refresh your business ideas and lift up the office spirit. Finding a steady source of well-educated interns by teaming up with such a well-known business school as CIIM is one easy shortcut of how to start.
Dr Olga Kandinskaia is Assistant Professor of Finance at the CIIM Business School and Director of the MSc in Management Programme, [email protected]