The Institute of Employers’ (ISE) Internship Report surveyed 107 employers who invested at least £13 million to recruit 7,532 paid interns this year.
The report found that employers hired 6% more interns in 2018 than in the year before. Internship opportunities were found to be available in all UK regions, with 52% of vacancies outside of London.
While median salaries rose by 1% to £350 per week, a quarter of employers pay at least £408 per week and 21% of employers pay their interns a salary equivalent to £21,500 (the median starting salary for all UK graduates according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency).
As well as increasing the number of internships offered, employers are broadening their offer, the research suggested. Employers have traditionally offered opportunities to penultimate year university students on fixed summer programmes. But this year 62% did not restrict internships in this way and 30% of employers hired first year students as interns, up from 22% in 2017.
Many employers are approaching internships as a route to a graduate job at their firm, the report stated, with 94% of employers encouraging interns to return as employees. Additionally 74% of employers make job offers straight away after the internship has finished, with 87% of interns who are offered jobs accepting.
Employers are alive to the benefits interns bring, the report found, with 7% of employers saying that interns out-perform graduates, and 35% that interns perform better on the job. Additionally 18% stated that former interns stay longer.
Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the ISE, confirmed that interns tend to be high-performing employees.
“The market for interns is getting more competitive, so employers are investing more than ever before. The reason for this is simple: interns make better hires. Former interns are more likely to accept job offers, stay longer and often outperform their peers,” he said.
Internships have been a controversial topic over the last few years, however, with campaigners arguing that unpaid and poorly paid internships are detrimental to social mobility.
Richard Waite, resourcing lead at Grant Thornton, a company ranked as the Social Mobility Employer Index's top employer in 2017, stressed that interns should always be paid.
“At Grant Thornton we’ve always held the belief that it’s important to pay interns and to give them the same respect and benefits as we would with our wider employee base. It’s something we’ve always proactively encouraged,” he told HR magazine.
“At the moment it’s more important than ever to make sure we’re giving everyone a fair chance. Making sure that people are fairly rewarded and paid is especially important for young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds in ensuring we’re giving everyone a chance.
"From a diversity perspective, we know that hiring people from different backgrounds means that we can broaden our skillset and improve our talent pipeline, so it makes business sense too,” Waite added.