Internships vs. graduate schemes: What’s the difference?
First let’s establish the difference between an internship and a graduate scheme. The language used to describe these schemes has become quite indistinguishable over recent years. The words ‘internship’, ‘graduate scheme’, ‘work experience’ and ‘placement’ are often used interchangeably to talk about job schemes that are all fundamentally different in their purpose and in their conditions.
An internship is traditionally for undergraduates or students who are looking for work experience related to their degrees and studies. It can take place on a part-time basis, running alongside a degree, or it can be full time and therefore take place during longer holidays. Internships can be paid or unpaid, depending on the company and the industry in which the internship takes place. The issue around payment is one that is discussed a lot. Do interns need to be paid a salary or are you merely obligated to pay for their travel and/or food? Make sure that you check the guidelines related to your industry around what you need to pay as the employer so that you don’t find yourself in a difficult position. The fundamental reality of an internship is that it has to be worth it, for both you and the person interning.
A graduate scheme is very specific and is targeted at graduates, so the entry level qualification for these roles tends to be a degree. But a graduate scheme is different from a graduate just working in their first job out of university. Graduate schemes tend to occur in larger, more established companies and enable the graduate to train on the job, often across a number of departments. This fixed schedule and the rigid nature of the role tend to make it easier to both fill the role as well as allowing you to put in place a set schedule of work.
Making it work for your organisation
So what’s right for your company? As we mentioned, the internship or graduate scheme has to be right for your business, no matter the size of it. The greatest benefit that these roles can bring to your company is that they provide you with a never-ending bank of potential employees. The process of recruiting and hiring for new roles can be a drain on resources, especially if the person you hire doesn’t end up working for the company. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2009 Experiential Education Survey, almost 40% of employers reported a higher five-year retention rate with employees they’d hired via their internship programs. If you hire one of your interns, you are bringing someone on board who already knows and understands the values of the business. For instance, a fashion intern you bring on fresh out of school could go on to become a valuable in-house designer who knows your company inside out.
Having a scheme in place also means that you consistently have short term support. Young graduates and interns can help out in aspects of the business that your permanent members of staff may not have the time to do. An intern or graduate also brings a fresh perspective into the company, offering up new ideas and challenging relatively cemented aspects of the business. They may question your process as full-time members of staff may not, which is only going to be beneficial to the business.
Internships, and graduate schemes, also allow your experienced members of staff to share their skills with, and cultivate, the next generation of leaders in their field. There is no better way to teach someone than on the job. A company just needs to be willing to accommodate for that hands-on training period. Be wary of bringing people on board if you are too busy to make the time for them. There is no point having talented individuals in your business if you are not making the most of their skills.
The bright, young minds entering your business need to be given the space to learn in, just as you as a company need the space to establish whether the individual fits with your culture. Fundamentally, internships and graduate schemes are only going to benefit your company. Fresh minds, opinions and skills are exactly what a company needs to ensure innovation and progression occurs.
At Four Seasons, we recruit for jobs in the fashion and retail sector, from entry level to senior positions. Take a look at our current vacancies here - http://ow.ly/zrhi30aA7mV