Could Your Interns Be More Valuable?

Mark Chapeski

Jan 3, 2019

By Mark Chapeskie

Much has been written about the moral value and legality of paying interns versus not paying interns. While those arguments may work with some, there will always be those who cannot be persuaded by anything but the business case. So here it is.


When a person or organization is paying for a service, they are more likely to assign value to that service and therefore invest more time and energy into maximizing their return.

The evidence is clear that paying interns actually improves overall return on investment (measured both in time and dollars). When a person or organization is paying for a service, they are more likely to assign value to that service and therefore invest more time and energy into maximizing their return. This then improves the outcomes associated with that service. In this case, the service on offer is a student intern. The numbers back this up.

Interns who are paid are more likely to stay on post-internship or after graduation and more likely to work on actual company challenges/projects rather than clerical work. I have previously referred to the RBC example with their Aspire program. The work their interns have done under the supervision of senior management has actually resulted in new intellectual property and in some cases even patents.

Student debt loads on graduation are anywhere from $10,000 to $27,000. Managing their finances means many students can’t afford to take on an unpaid internship. They need a side job to keep bills paid while in school. This means that companies aren’t necessarily attracting the best and brightest into unpaid internships. They are attracting those who can afford the time to be there socio-economically. Companies that pay access a bigger and more diverse pool of talent.

Do you really want your intern thinking about their side hustle?

When I hire someone, I want them focussed on my priorities in my business. I don’t want them wondering if they can afford rent this month or whether or not they can put food on the table. Do you really want your intern thinking about their side hustle (that Shopify business they started, their rating on Upwork and bidding on the next freelance job or how many hours with Uber they can fit in)?

A return intern is 90% likely to result in a full-time job opportunity.

Interns who are paid are also more likely to convert to full-time employees. A single internship is 44% likely to convert to a full-time employee and a return intern is 90% likely to result in a full-time job opportunity. HR is always trying to come up with ways to expand the talent pipeline. Internships are a great opportunity to try out new talent in a controlled environment and a contracted timeframe.

Lastly, each new intern is an opportunity to expose people to the inner workings of your company. If the internship is handled well, they can become brand ambassadors of your product, your service and your workplace culture. They become your social marketers to their own networks. And while many of those networks are immature currently, they too will grow with time. And if they speak well of your company and your culture, who knows what new talent may come your way as a result.


Paying interns improves ROI, improves access to a greater pool of the best and brightest, expands your talent pipeline, and boosts your organization’s brand.

In closing, paying interns isn’t a moral obligation or just the “right thing to do.” Paying interns improves ROI, improves access to a greater pool of the best and brightest, expands your talent pipeline, and boosts your organization’s brand. Paying your interns just makes good business sense. Could the interns at your organization be more valuable?


I’m proud to work for an organization that actively supports intern hiring through wage subsidies. We believe in hiring interns so much, we’ll help offset the cost of new interns hired in Canada.


Mark Chapeskie is Director of Projects, Electricity Human Resources Canada.


Notes


See RBC Amplify Program


See more about Student Debt


See Nace 2015 Survey results regarding internship hires

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