In 2011 over a third of graduate jobs went go to those who have already done an internship with the company in question. Recruiting innovative, intelligent and creative new employees is essential for modern businesses. Those young people who might be most suited to specific careers in may not be the same ones who are able to afford to work for free. If bright, talented and able graduates are stuck working in bars rather than at the top of their chosen fields, it is a waste for all concerned.
Paid internships allow all to compete on an even footing for valuable experience. Across all sectors, those firms that offer paid experience get more applications from a broader range of candidates. By offering the minimum wage, or even the London living wage, firms are able to secure the most able workers.
Where internships are informal and unpaid they are likely to be unstructured and unhelpful for the intern and the company. Where companies choose to pay interns they are more likely to invest time and effort in ensuring the internship program is structured and useful for all concerned.
Employers who show their interns the respect of paying them for their work can expect to get respect back in return. Paying your staff isn’t an optional luxury, its central to a sustainable business model. If interns are doing real work they deserve to be paid for it.