Lack of City internships could fuel economic divide between the north and south

The research revealed a possible economic divide between the north and south of the country in future years. 

Businesses in London (38 per cent) are more likely to employ interns, while 72 per cent of businesses in the Midlands have never  done so. The east (61 per cent) and the north (67 per cent) also reported a high number of businesses who never offered paid internships.

Helen Brand OBE, chief executive of ACCA said: “We know that only a tiny minority of young people can afford to travel to London for an internship. With work experience now considered an integral part of any CV, spurring the lack of opportunities available outside the capital.

“By 2017, ACCA wants to see at least 60 per cent of all businesses having employed a paid intern and to have reaped the multitude of benefits that working with a talented, enthusiastic young person can bring.”

According to Brand, improving access to internships “is a vital part of addressing the geographical imbalance in our economy. Cultivating a talented, motivated, ambitious workforce is a key component of any good strategy for growth. If businesses located outside London want to compete with those based in the capital, offering paid internships to the next generation of local talent is a must.”

It was also found that 83 per cent of businesses with fewer than 50 employees never offered internships.

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Brand explained: “The opportunity to work in a range of different business environments gives young people a broader experience of work and a better idea of how their strengths and weaknesses fit with potential employers.

“In smaller companies, interns can often make a bigger impact and the effect of work can be seen relatively quickly. Also, many placements with smaller companies are project based which means that interns have more opportunity to take ownership of a task and see it through to the end.

“In a smaller organisation a spare pair of hands can undertake tasks no-one else has time for. Interns can provide a valuable resource to smaller businesses where existing staff are busy working hard on maintaining ‘business-as-usual’ and don’t have the time to look at issues such as competitor analysis, marketing or market research – all key areas for growth.”

With diversity and social mobility at the top of the business agenda, businesses across the UK need to look at offering paid internships to young people from all backgrounds.

“The fact that almost half of businesses in this country have never employed an intern is nothing more than a missed opportunity for UK plc,” said Brand. “One of the most worrying statistics to emerge from the report was that 37 per cent of businesses who employ interns source candidates from friends and family. This approach creates a closed circle of privilege which severely limits the pool of skills and talent from which businesses recruit. We would like to see that figure reduced to 25 per cent by 2017.”

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