· 2 min read · Features

The business case for SME internships


Internships and graduate schemes are by no means a new concept. For decades they have served as an opportunity for young graduates to receive on-the-job training and experience, begin building a network of contacts and research an industry before looking for full time employment.

Internships provide that vital stepping stone from higher education to full-time employment and as such are essential for recent graduates.

In the market, it is usually the case for high quality graduates to gravitate towards larger corporate companies due to the perception that clearer career paths will be offered. However, in reality small businesses can have more to offer as graduates are given far greater opportunity to get closer to the business, carve out a position and make a real difference. The chance to experience the genuine coal face of the business in a fast growth, nimble enterprise is a chance that any business-minded graduate should not overlook.

In fact, it is an environment where they are likely to thrive, with the results of their labour there for all to see, driving them onwards and upwards. For the businesses, these graduates have a significant amount to offer in terms of energy and knowledge and small businesses should therefore be competing against larger companies to attract them for the good of their business.

YourVets is an example of a company that has recently made the most of this opportunity. A growing veterinary business with seven practices, it recently took on a graduate intern through Santander's Breakthrough programme, which helps fast growth small businesses looking to expand. The scheme provides interns with three month projects at selected SMEs as part of the programme. YourVets challenged their graduate to analyse and improve the management and operations of the business. Such an opportunity to get to grips with the inner workings of a business would rarely be available at a larger corporate and, as such, it was grabbed whole-heartedly by the intern.

The report produced by the intern impressed YourVets to such a degree that a position was created for them to implement the recommendations. Another business on the programme, Viper Subsea, which operates in the oil and gas engineering sector, took on a marketing intern to develop a strategy for breaking into overseas markets. The results were equally beneficial and Viper Subsea has subsequently hired the graduate who is implementing the strategy.

Internships do require both a time and financial commitment, but the rewards are clear. The enthusiasm and motivation of a graduate coupled with their valuable skill set can serve a small business extremely well. As well as the high quality work and new ideas they can offer, their ambitious attitude and spark can be an infectious combination, helping to reinvigorate the workforce.

Momentum such as this is something that SMEs need in order to compete in the tumultuous economy and fresh, eager graduates with a head for business are the perfect source. Graduates are constantly expressing concern about the inability to find quality placement schemes or employment, so SMEs should be encouraged to step up and reap the benefits. While the administrative costs may look prohibitive, the potential results should be enough to encourage most ambitious SMEs to view internships as a way of developing their business.

John Williams (pictured) head of Breakthrough, Santander UK