How hiring interns and placement students is changing

Nov 28, 2022 | Work experience/internships

As well as exploring graduate and school and college leaver recruitment, ISE’s annual Student Recruitment Survey shows how employers hire a range of short-term hires, namely interns and placement students.

Our Student Recruitment Survey 2022 distinguishes between those that are hired for a vacation period (usually Easter or summer), which we call interns and those that are hired for nine months or a year, usually in the middle of a student’s undergraduate degree (sometimes called a ‘sandwich year’ or a ‘year in industry’) which we call work placement students.

The overwhelming majority of respondents (82%) reported that they recruit interns or placement students (up from 75% in 2021).

Applications and hires

In this year’s report, we asked employers to share the number of applications they received and the number of interns and placement students they hired for both this year and last year.

Respondents reported receiving a total of 204,194 applications for intern and placements, a 1% reduction from last year. This marks a change from the year-on-year trend throughout the pandemic, which saw an increasing number of applications.

For internships, the average organisation received 26 applications for every hire in 2021/2022 (a decrease on last year) while the typical (median) organisation received 39 applications for every hire (the same as last year). This suggests that placement and internship roles have become less competitive than throughout the pandemic.

Considering how tight the labour market is with low level of unemployment, these internships and placements provide an important pathway into the graduate labour market. Around 50% of former interns and placement students were recruited into graduate jobs in the same organisation in 2022.

Growth and shrinkage of internships and placements

Utilising responses from organisations who provided recruitment figures for the last two years, 7,733 interns and placement students were recruited in 2021/2022 – a significant 49% increase on the previous year. While the recruitment of interns and placements took a back seat in the years since the pandemic started (read three pandemic recruitment trends), this year builds on the renewed hiring demand for interns and placements that started in 2021.

Some sectors saw much more dramatic changes than others. Employers in the Built Environment sector (47%), Energy Engineering and Industry (39%) and Retail and FMCG sectors (31%) recruited many more interns and placements students in 2021/2022 than 2020/2021. Compared with last year, there were no sectors that experienced a substantial reduction in hiring at this level.

The shift to virtual

Throughout the pandemic we have seen a significant shift to virtual working across all levels of role.

The shift to virtual internships impacts interns and work placement students significantly. Firstly, because there was a huge decline in roles in 2020. Secondly, because employers have reported a desire to have interns and placements in the office to support development of those early on in their careers.

In 2020 the vast majority of companies (72%) offered internships mainly virtually, this declined to 7% last year but levelled off this year to 12%.

This year more than a third of employers are hosting internships mainly face-to-face, compared with 7% and 6% of employers in 2021 and 2020.

This trend of hybrid working highlights broader shifts in the labour market and leads to questions about the influence of hybrid working on employer practices.

In our Student Development Survey this year we found that employers now see hybrid working as a skill they want student hires to have.

Hybrid working practices can support interns and placement students to develop in-person and online skills in a way that working solely in the office or from home can’t.

There are some similarities with working practices for placement students and interns. However, compared to interns, the amount of employers offering mainly virtual placements has declined from 62% in 2020, to 9% in 2021, and now 6% in 2022.

Sixty three per cent of employers are offering a hybrid model of delivery for placement students in 2022. This flexibility and agility in offering different modalities for placement and intern students does offer some logistical challenges.

Read more blogs on this year’s survey or download the report

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