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HEFCE has funded two separate internship programmes, one for graduates, the other for undergraduate students.
In 2010-11 funding of £12.8 million was provided to 57 universities and colleges to support graduate internships and 7,600 internships were completed by the end of the scheme in March 2011. The initiative was devised to assist unemployed graduates and provide support to employers in small businesses and priority economic sectors.
In summer 2010 HEFCE provided £1 million to 30 universities and colleges to support undergraduate internships for disadvantaged students to work in professional organisations, to widen access to the professions. 850 internships were completed.
The report surveyed interns, employers and universities and colleges. It finds that nearly half the graduate interns secured long-term employment as a result of their internships: 28 per cent of graduates secured long-term employment with their internship employer, with a further 18 per cent securing other long-term employment. Fourteen per cent were in temporary employment. Fifteen per cent were unemployed, with 13 per cent undertaking further study or voluntary work.
Eighty-one per cent of the employers involved were small businesses. Eleven per cent were small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Less than 9 per cent were larger employers. Seventy-one per cent of participating businesses were more likely to offer graduate internships in future and only 5 per cent were less likely to do so. Twenty-four per cent were unchanged.
For undergraduate internships, the majority of students had not applied for or had been unsuccessful in obtaining work experience previously. Fifty-five per cent of the participating employers said that as a result of the scheme they were more likely to offer work experience to undergraduates in future, particularly SMEs and businesses offering these internships for the first time.
Overall, the report finds that students and graduates reported strong development of employability skills and an increase in confidence directly attributable to their internship experience. The majority of employers reported that interns brought new energy and fresh insights to their business and the value of the intern exceeded expectations.
The report advises that more could be done to inform the participants – universities, students and employers – of the benefits of internships, particularly in the context of the current higher education funding reforms, which are expected to increase the focus of students and universities on graduate employability. This will be a priority for HEFCE, working with Government and partner organisations, in the coming years.
David Sweeney, HEFCE Director of Research, Innovation and Skills, said:
'HEFCE and the higher education sector have successfully delivered these graduate and undergraduate internships to a high standard in a short timeframe. These schemes, along with the recent Economic Challenge Investment Fund, show that higher education is making its contribution to recession recovery. The challenge now is to work with partners to take internship and work placement activity forward into the new fees and funding environment.'
The report, 'Increasing Opportunities for High Quality Higher Education Work Experience: Report to HEFCE by Oakleigh Consulting Ltd and CRAC' is available in full.