The Growing Importance of IT Internships in the UK

Skills gaps are often at the forefront of employers’ minds. In a year of unprecedented disruption, with normality starting to appear on the horizon, focus once again returns to preparing your business for future growth.

When it comes to introducing new skills, the digital skills gap is the focus for most employers. But permanent hires and apprenticeships aren’t the only solutions available.

By implementing an effective Internship & Work Placement scheme, you can join other top employers, and help to alleviate skills gaps, boost productivity and find a continuous pipeline of IT talent. 

The rise of Internships in IT

An internship programme allows a company to develop a renewed pipeline of new talent. These schemes exist in different forms and have grown in popularity in recent years. Huge employers offer internships in IT, including Bloomberg, Deloitte and Google – but it’s not just the biggest organisations that can benefit.

Some companies only offer a summer internship programme, whereas others offer year-round programmes to compliment university study. These schemes are driven by strong demand for low-risk temporary hires, coupled with the need for experience for applicants interested in more specialised technical roles.

Benefits to Employers

An internship or work placement scheme can have a number of different benefits to your organisation. The number one is that it gives you a renewable talent pipeline for new hires, so it’s highly effective for teams with consistent turnover. This can help both as a temporary solution to reduced working power, and as a long-term recruitment tool to trial candidates available before offering a permanent position to those that fit your organisation. 

As a low-risk and low-cost solution, internships can be a great strategy in times of change. With the disruption seen this year, it makes sense that some employers won’t be able to commit to larger-scale plans, so by finding internship opportunities within your organisation you can offer a short-term solution before you develop your talent acquisition fully.

Employers find that retention rates for candidates with internship experience are considerably higher than average. Retention is a key focus for organisations seeking to reduce their hiring costs. Roughly 65% of paid internships become full-time job offers, making it a desirable talent pipeline.

A fresh source of talent can also have profound impacts on productivity. Interns bring fresh ideas and new ways of working, which can help improve or streamline existing processes. Research conducted by NACE found that 92% of intern tasks involved high-level tasks like data analysis, problem solving and logistics. 

Internships and work placements can also drive skill developments in your existing team. Think of it this way – a new intern with less experience will need some guidance and mentorship, which can foster growth towards Team Leader and Management roles in your current employees. 

In times of significant change for employers, an internship or work placement will give you the ability to bolster your teams’ working power. Skills gaps are costing companies a record £6.6bn a year according to Open University’s Business Barometer, so many are looking for low-risk short-term solutions.

A New Generation of Talent

The biggest hurdle for most job applicants in the current job market is experience. With an increasing number of graduate roles requiring some professional experience (usually in the form of a placement year for successful applicants), those entering the IT industry need to find a hands-on placement more often than not. 

For the interns themselves, these can exist both as a way to experience the industry to see where their true passion lies, or as a useful reference on their CV when they come to apply for their first entry-level role. Interns are paid a salary by the employer at a competitive wage, allowing businesses to access an eager source of talent. Studies have also found that completing an internship can increase wages by as much as 6% 5 years after completion, making them an attractive pathway into any industry.

An internship can also provide a vital source of industry experience and income, whilst the candidate completes their studies. This isn’t to say that work placement candidates will have no knowledge of the industry, they’ll have studied relevant qualifications just like Internship candidates. This makes interns a great solution for projects like Digital Transformation – upgrading multiple workplace systems while leaving salaried staff flexible to oversee, assist and attend to other relevant duties.

But experience isn’t the only benefit to participating in these programs. Interns can be immersed in a variety of different styles of working, making them a great pathway for candidates considering their options for career progression. As well as a strong CV feature, internships are also the first stage of building a professional network for many candidates, which any IT professional knows is crucial for a successful career. Crucially for many candidates, an internship or work placement gives confidence in the practical elements of the role, allowing them to build their foundation for a successful career in tech.

Internships can provide entry-level talent in a number of disciplines, but as the level of technical specialism increases in a role, then employers would need to look towards more experienced permanent hires via specialist recruitment services – recruiters with an in-depth knowledge of their sector and a database of previous candidates to draw from. As the demand for digital skills continues to grow, internships and work placements are another solution alongside upskilling existing staff through training and apprenticeship programmes – which allow employers to make the most of their levy funding.

We are moving into an era of accelerating digital change, so it’s reassuring for employers that there are skills solutions at every level of experience and expertise.