Pay employers to offer internships

17 Aug 2010 08:58 AM

A “non-graduate talent pool” would benefit business and at-risk young people.

Employers who give quality internships to disadvantaged young people – such as young offenders and care leavers – should receive ‘pay-back’ from the Government says new research from Demos.  Employers would receive payment if their intern had found stable employment within a year of completing their placement.

The independent think tank said that the state stands to make significant savings by getting young people who would otherwise be NEET (not in employment, education or training) off welfare and into the workplace.  Demos calls on employers to think of this group as a “non-graduate talent pool”.

In a report published by the Foyer Federation, Demos recommends:

•    The Job Seekers Allowance system should be reviewed to ensure it does not disincentivise young people – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds – from undertaking work experience and internships.

•    The introduction of a ‘pay-back’ scheme for employers who provide high quality work experience for disadvantaged and at-risk young people

•    The introduction of a nation-wide internship network allowing companies to share experiences of working with disadvantaged young people

Internships were found to significantly increase an individual’s chances of employment by the Cabinet Office’s Panel on Fair Access to the Professions. The research by Demos found that young people with low qualifications were excluded from this crucial experience with many internships being aimed at university graduates.

In the new report, Access All Areas, Demos urges action to be taken to get disadvantaged young people into internships normally dominated by the middle classes.  A 2008 study found there was significant correlation between socio-economic background and the social status of work places indicating that work placements can compound the class divide.

Under the Demos scheme, financial rewards would be available only to employers offering quality placements that gave young people an opportunity to build their workplace skills.  A survey of 2,000 14-19 year olds from earlier this year revealed that over half of respondents felt there were not enough good work placements available.

Julia Margo, Director of Demos said:

“Internships are about who you know and what you know – you need contacts and qualifications. But they should be seen primarily as a way to learn.

“Getting at-risk young people into internships will go a long way to giving them the opportunities and aspirations open to middle class graduates – we should think of them as a ‘non-graduate talent pool’.

“More important than paying people to intern is making sure they learn the skills they need.  A quality internship that pays only expenses is far more valuable than one that pays people a low wage to do menial jobs.”

Jane Slowey, Chief Executive of Foyer Federation said:

“We believe all young people should have the opportunity afforded through internships to identify, develop and promote their talents.  That includes the 10,000 young people using Foyers each year, whose aspirations to shape their lives in meaningful ways are not always met by the opportunities available to them.  For these young people, positive engagement through the workplace and community provide vital experiences to help them recognise their ability and navigate future transitions.

“Targeted investment in talent-building approaches can reap significant returns and benefits by helping young people and their services and communities, to unlock unused potential.

“We hope more employers and funders will work with the Foyer Federation to invest in and benefit from the talents of young people from a broader range of backgrounds.”


Notes to Editors

In June 2010, 380,000 16-17 year olds and 3.4m 18-24 year olds were unemployed.  The 16-18 year olds who are NEET cost the state approximately £4.6bn per year.

The Panel on Fair Access found that a person would be less able to undertake an internship if they:

•    Lack the financial resources to work for free
•    Lack the means to travel to or live near the place of work
•    Come from a background where such opportunities are never considered

Access All Areas by Julia Margo, Eugene Grant, Dom Longford and Miranda Lewis was written by Demos and is published by Foyer Federation.  It includes original analysis of the 1970 British Cohort Study.

Demos is a think-tank focused on power and politics. Our unique approach challenges the traditional, 'ivory tower' model of policymaking by giving a voice to people and communities. We work together with the groups and individuals who are the focus of our research, including them in citizens’ juries, deliberative workshops, focus groups and ethnographic research. Through our high quality and socially responsible research, Demos has established itself as the leading independent think tank in British politics. Our work is driven by the goal of a society populated by free, capable, secure and powerful citizens.

About the Foyer Federation

The Foyer Federation has successfully run a community volunteering programme for young people, called Working Assets, which engages young people in preparing their talents for the world of work. We will be launching a further 18 projects through this programme across Foyers from September 2010, benefiting 200 young people looking for internship and apprenticeship opportunities.

The Foyer Federation develops and encourages new approaches to supporting young people at risk as they make their transition to adulthood. For nearly two decades, we have worked mainly through a network of over 100 accredited, integrated learning and accommodation providers, known as Foyers, who re-connect up to 10,000 young people a year with personal development, education, training and employment opportunities. The Foyer Federation is now exploring how the holistic Foyer approach can be stretched and targeted to improve services for those young people whose journey to adulthood is particularly difficult due to barriers they face in life. For more information about the Foyer Federation please go to www.foyer.net.

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