Rethinking Internships

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The way your business works and therefore, the way you recruit future employees is changing. Sara Flack, Careers Programme manager at Birmingham City University (BCU) discusses the changing nature of employment and how universities are re-inventing the traditional internship to better meet the needs of businesses and a changing jobs market.

The work environment is evolving. A fast-changing labour market, an increasingly turbulent economy and the growing number of new HR technologies available, are just three of the factors that are continuously disrupting the way we do business and the skills required.

At Birmingham City University’s Careers Service, we’re addressing this need by changing the support we offer students and the programmes we run. Throughout this piece I investigate five trends affecting UK businesses and how universities, including BCU are rethinking their internship delivery to support your needs.

Think: HR technology

The world of ‘Recruitment 2.0’ is upon us. According to Deloitte’s Human Capital report only 9% of businesses believe they have a good understanding of which talent dimensions drive organisational performance, over the last two years investment in the HR technology sector has risen by £1.7 billion with UK businesses seeing the importance of using new tools to give them the information they need to make comprehensive recruitment decisions. 

Long gone are the days of shuffling through paper job applications and attending face to face interviews. Businesses are using video interviews, online tests and analytics software to give them access to the top future employees quickly with as little resource and time used as possible.

With these new interview procedures, universities are adapting their training methods to ensure the right students get the right jobs. Birmingham City University prepares graduates for these new technologies by offering comprehensive video-interview training and access to new numerical and verbal reasoning practice test, to ensure they’re ready for any new HR procedures.

Think: Being a people person

Businesses are finally realising that there is more to graduates than just their skill set. You can have a brilliantly skilled employee, but if they don’t fit with your values then the chance that your business will retain them for longer than a couple of years is slim. According to a study by Leadership IQ, 23% of newly-hired employees that fail within 18 months do so because of their lack of emotional intelligence – the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions and accurately assess others. More and more companies are realising this and looking to assess soft skills to support with developing and nurturing a workforce of long-term employees invested in the business.

At Birmingham City University we support with training our interns on the importance of emotional intelligence, and send all of them on a 2 week teamwork and leadership training programme to support integration into the company they’ll be working with.

Think: The workplace is wherever (and whenever) you want it to be

With the rise of the internet and new communication technologies, your workforce is no longer limited to a physical space or even Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 working hours.  The government’s flexible working regulations of 2014, allow for all employees to apply for a right to work ‘flexibly’, which has led to a number of companies encouraging employees to set their own hours and working location.

In order to accommodate the growing number of startups within Birmingham who may not have office facilities or choose to use them, BCU internships offer a new-found flexibility by giving all interns access to video conferencing software enabling them to work for your business without the need to be in your current workspace environment. Who knows, you could be doing a million dollar deal on an oil rig in the South China Sea, whilst your interns are supporting your marketing strategy in sunny Brum.

Think: Flexibility 

With Brexit on the horizon, there is a growing uncertainty amongst companies, especially smaller businesses, on their financial status and competitiveness. Businesses are going to have to be flexible with their business services and delivery models to remain competitive and stay afloat in the face of potentially political and financially challenging times.

Universities understand that their internship programmes have to accommodate the changing finances of businesses who may not always be able to afford to take on the extra workforce. BCU internship lengths can be flexible to support your needs and timescales, if you can’t afford to have an intern on for 12 months, no problem.

And finally…graduates are more than just their degree

It’s no use hiding it, you can have the most intelligent student but if they don’t have the common sense or business acumen to deliver in your company, then you most likely will choose not to hire them.

Birmingham City University recognises this by offering a series of additional professional courses and qualifications to students to prepare them for business life. All of the graduate interns who are recruited through our programmes partake in Prince2 project management courses – giving them the teamwork and management skills they need to integrate into a business.

About the author -

Sara Flack - Careers Consultant at Birmingham City University

Sara has over 24 years of experience working in the Careers, Recruitment and Employability sector in the West Midlands. She is passionate about helping people realise their goals and aspirations. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family.

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