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Give Young People Proper Internships

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AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) is one of over 100 businesses signed up to Nick Clegg's 'Business Compact' on social mobility - improving access for all young people from all backgrounds into the professions.

We signed up to the Business Compact because we felt it important that organisations get on board to open up pathways for the youth of today. In the current economic climate and with a strong call to action from the government we wanted to highlight the huge benefits we've had working with young people.

This year we welcomed two new apprentices, a work experience student and two international research interns into life at AAT. All have added to our business and we have learnt so much along the way. I feel it's important to mention that all those that have worked with us were paid a competitive salary, in this day and age we feel strongly that young people should be paid for their time, hard work and efforts just like every other employee.

Our international interns joined us for three months this summer.Earlier this year the AAT Global Development team identified the need for more resource to help on two very specific research projects. We knew we needed people with specialist language and research skills in the Middle East -specifically the Gulf region along with the Chinese market.

The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London, proved the perfect place for us to begin the recruitment process. With SOAS being a leading institution for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, we had access to those studying foreign markets and those from different backgrounds with language skills. We worked up a thorough brief and SOAS presented us with an array of fantastic candidates that were interested in our internship programme.

We interviewed six candidates for each posting. The interview process consisted of 1-2-1 interviews as well as each candidate giving a short presentation on how they would carry out the research project. We were rigorous throughout this process. We felt we had to be as the project work was in-depth and real outcomes were expected. The successful candidates would be working on their own so we needed people with good time management skills as well as being able to translate and present research in a concise, professional manner.

It was important that the candidates have a degree or masters due to the nature of the internship and overall work. We also felt it was important that the two candidates be passionate about working in the education and finance sector. For those that were not successful, we provided thorough feedback.

Sundus Saeed had a degree in Arabic and had lived in the Middle East. The Global Development team were making visits to the Gulf region so it was immediately apparent that they benefitted from Sundus's insight and knowledge into cultural life in this region.

Junying Wang had completed her masters in International Management for China. Junying was from Beijing and spoke fluent mandarin. Again Junying was able to help us bridge the cultural differences and understand the Chinese market in much more detail.

Both interns worked on market insight projects in their regions. The Assistant Director of Global Development met with Junying and Sundus weekly where they reported back on the week's activities and findings.

Every month Junying and Sundus did an informal presentation to two of our Directors. This providing both parties with opportunity to feedback and ask each other questions. These regular catch-ups ensured that activity was aligned and everyone was happy with the progression of the work.

In the first few weeks into the internships; we realised both interns would benefit from working with an experienced business research consultant. While they had great in-depth academic knowhow from a university education; they did need some advice and support in how to translate the huge amounts of information into a digestible format highlighting relevant insight for our business.

Other than working with two highly motivated young people - their language skills and knowledge gave us access to information we know we may not have been able to obtain otherwise. We also didn't have the resource in-house to do this research on our own, so we really felt and saw first-hand the value the interns added to our business and life at AAT.

Junying Wang, international intern at AAT commented: "The AAT internship was a great way to use my research skills and language skills to help the Global Development team expand their knowledge of the Chinese market. Working with the research consultant was of huge benefit and I believe the internship will bolster my CV."

Recommendation to other businesses on how to make an internship worthwhile for both parties:

• Spend time putting a plan together with clear objectives of what you want the internship to achieve
• Put time in at the beginning to get the right type of candidates through the door
• Have regular catch-ups to ensure work is going to plan
• Give constructive feedback
• Keep in touch. Good interns = valuable employees
• Give the interns suitable work which is varied. They need to be adding value and bolstering their CV
• Pay you interns, they're doing a job and deserve to be treated like every other employee