Industry Market Trends

Internships Are Benefitting Both Employers and Job-Seekers in Tight Market

Dec 12, 2013

Recognizing that internship programs can serve as a valuable pipeline for new talent in the face of a skilled labor crisis, employers are offering interns hourly pay above the minimum wage along with non-monetary perks. Research also shows that those who do paid internships are setting themselves up better for opportunities.

More employers are making internship programs an essential component of their college recruiting tactics. Approximately 34 percent of organizations that were polled by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) for a research report offer more internships in 2013 than last year, while only 8 percent have fewer intern opportunities this year.

Based on responses from nearly 360 HR professionals throughout the U.S., SHRM found that 71 percent of organizations hired, or have plans to hire, their interns this year.

Internship programs, of course, provide students valuable on-the-job experience and a greater chance of being hired whether at the companies running the internships or at other companies. In SHRM's study, 93 percent of organizations indicated that they consider internships as relevant work experience, and approximately fourth-fifths of organizations said they have offered a full-time position to an intern after the completion of the internship.

For companies struggling to find properly skilled workers to fill their open positions right now, "well-structured paid internships can be a valuable pipeline for recruiting new talent, especially in highly competitive industries," an HR Magazine article recommended. According to SHRM's findings, the two industries in which interns are most in demand are professional, scientific, and technical services (20 percent) and manufacturing (15 percent).

Recognizing the benefits of internships, organizations are offering competitive wages and non-monetary perks to attract interns.

More than three-quarters of organizations that offer internships pay their interns, and approximately three-fourths of paid interns receive hourly pay that is above minimum wage. An intern's compensation is generally determined based on the department in which the intern is working (48 percent), his or her level of education (44 percent), and the entry-level wage for relevant work at the organization (39 percent).

On top of providing competitive wages, letters of recommendations (73 percent), and references (76 percent), some employers offer various soft benefits to interns. The most common of these is on-site parking (48 percent), followed by paid holidays (18 percent), and housing assistance or temporary housing (7 percent), SHRM's findings indicated.

According to a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) student survey earlier this year, nearly two-thirds (63.2 percent) of seniors from the undergraduate class of 2013 participated in internships or cooperative education assignments while pursuing bachelor's degrees. Findings published in the 2013 Student Survey also indicated that, among this year's graduating class who had applied for jobs, approximately 63.1 percent of those who were paid interns received at least one job offer, compared with 37 percent of unpaid interns and slightly more than 35 percent who did not do internships.

"In terms of starting salary, too, paid interns did significantly better than other job applicants," NACE said in a statement. The median starting salary for new grads with paid internship experience is $51,930 - far outdistancing their counterparts who did unpaid internships ($35,721) or did not do internships ($37,087).

In its 2013 Internship & Co-op Survey study, NACE reported that slightly more than 80 percent of employers have plans to offer some type of benefits to their interns. Similar to SHRM's findings, NACE said the most popular benefits are also the least expensive, with planned social activities, paid holidays, and recognition for work service time topping the list.