The news that O2 and Bauer Media were setting up "GoThinkBig", their new project to promote internships and entry-level opportunities, had me skipping all the way to work last week - albeit rather carefully as I am recovering from a recently dislocated shoulder. There were two reasons I felt particularly happy.
Primarily because it is fantastic to see large corporations doing their bit to dispel the divisive and all too pervasive culture of "who you know not what you know" in the recruitment world. In addition, I was also pleased to see the effort they were making to reclaim the internship for what it was intended to be, not what it has become for many businesses.
For too long, internships have been synonymous with exploitation of young graduates keen to get a foothold on their career ladder. Many companies have manipulated the concept of an internship as a means of getting free or cheap labour to cover a company's menial or administrative tasks.
Whilst we at Inspiring Interns have been championing our "good internships" (as I wrote about previously), we are but one company. To have O2 and Bauer Media take a public stance on this issue with their own scheme, will certainly do a lot to set industry-wide standards for internships. Quite simply, it will re-establish that a good internship is about providing a graduate or young person with exposure and experience of a chosen career, whilst giving companies access to the best young talent for their future employment opportunities. Just as Ronan Dunne, CEO of O2 explained, internships are about giving young people real experience, stretching them beyond their academic training and enabling them to identify the existing skills they have to offer a prospective employer. Many of the young people we have placed into internships, have found them an excellent means of moving out of low skill employment and into a career they are passionate about.
Take for example, Lav Jeyarupalingam. After graduating from the University of Nottingham, he wasn't sure what direction he wanted his career to take and ended up falling into low skill employment. As he explains, it was an Inspiring internship that helped him take the next step:
"After working a bit of a mind-numbing job for six months after graduation, I plucked up the courage to leave, only to face unemployment, a depressing thought for anyone. After a little wandering and apathetic applications I realised what I needed to do was to focus in. This is where Inspiring Interns came in. I went into the office to meet them and before I knew it I was getting sent briefs of jobs that all sounded great and had a couple of interviews. After a matter of only a couple of weeks I've landed my current job and I've not looked back, the office is great and I genuinely look forward to coming to work every day."
Beyond this, and another important facet of the work of Inspiring Interns, and now O2 and Bauer Media's new project, is the progression it makes in re-shaping the process by which young people gain work experience. Just as we at Inspiring Interns do, "GoThinkBig" seeks to remove the nepotism involved in securing work experience and replace it with a fair and meritocratic system. Our recruitment process works to find the best graduates who offer the best fit with the placements on offer, whether that requires academic brilliance, excellent people skills or technical abilities.
With more graduates than ever looking to kick start their careers, we at Inspiring Interns are incredibly excited to see what becomes of O2 and Bauer Media's "GoThinkBig" initiative. Whilst we wait to see the impact it has, we will continue offering our own "good internships" to the best candidates, securing full time employment at the point of placement for 67% of the young people we have placed.
Follow Andrew Scherer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/inspiringintern