By Lewis Clark, Director, Get Work Experience

Julia Margo, the Acting Director of Demos, observed that ‘our economy is now secretly running on intern power’ in her Sunday Times article of the 15th August. This article intends to investigate this statement, the influences of two prominent trends upon the standards of employees and how to gain the most from taking on an intern.

As the blue sky hopes of a 2010 end to the recession faded, the nation's companies continue to withhold from committing themselves to new employees; the unemployment rate has fallen significantly since July 2008 (one year after the start of the recession and when the majority of firms could be expected to have made their redundancies), where it was at 5.2% of the working populace, to a current level of 7.8% or 2.47 million people.

The recession is prompting more and more young people to neglect higher education and gain their experiences in the work place. As one of our graduates recently said, work experience provides ‘the ability to understand the market through customer interaction in a working environment’. The previous Labour Government under Tony Blair’s ‘Education, education, education’ policy set a target of fifty per cent of the country’s 18-30yr olds entering higher education by 2010. However, the number of young people attending higher education has plummeted from third to fifteenth place in the international standings, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development statistics, placing the country's once proud educational standing behind countries such as Ireland and Iceland.

The result is that companies have a fantastic low-cost opportunity to gain from an influx of high quality potential employees that are looking to prove themselves in work experience placements of compatible lengths. In the current economic climate, all businesses are looking to cut down on their expenditure, stream line and become as efficient as possible, whilst the increased competition for each client demands improvement in competiveness and innovation that can lead to a great opportunity to grow.

Work experience placements provide willing and flexible short-term employees to facilitate the levels of production required whilst providing the trainees themselves with critical day-to-day experience in the industry. Recent graduates can provide the business with new proficiencies; such as Sage software expertise for accounting support or S.E.O. skills to move your company up the search engine listings. Trainees also provide a measuring stick upon which to evaluate the requirement for new members of staff and the impact of fresh ideas they contribute to the running and output of the firm; it’s certainly low risk to take on an intern with the view of making a successful placement full-time whilst marketing your firm and its ambition.

With the competition for jobs intense and companies searching for talented and cost-effective employees to gain an advantage over their rivals in the recession, it has been a logical step for businesses to become reliant upon using interns. Another development has seen smaller firms, that traditionally look to their family and friend networks to source their intern, look outwards to take advantage of the competition for places that will ultimately enable them to benefit from the placement to the greatest degree. Consequently, it is of less surprise to learn that the economy is being supported by intern power, than it having remained a ‘secret’ for so long.