Try Before You Buy: How Hosting an Intern Can Benefit Your Business

Mark Johnston


That internships provide benefits to young job seekers is well documented. A supervised workplace experience provides a bridge between the classroom and the world of work, allowing students and graduates to take on real responsibilities under the guidance of a professional. In addition to getting practical experience in their field of study, interns enhance their soft skills (communication, teamwork, presentation, etc.), start to build their professional network and strengthen their CVs, all of which boosts their employability. Indeed, the evidence suggests that students and graduates who have participated in an internship programme have a greater chance of finding permanent employment than those who haven’t.

Benefits of hosting an intern

The good news is that offering temporary employment to students and graduates can also provide a number of benefits to the host organization. Perhaps the biggest advantage is that it gives businesses the opportunity to “try out” potential future employees before recruiting them. If you are looking to hire more staff, hosting an intern is a risk-free, cost-effective way to evaluate their suitability for joining your team as a permanent employee. Retention rates are also shown to be higher with interns that are offered a full-time position, which means fewer resources wasted on new hires who turn out to be a poor match for your company.

Even if you are not looking to recruit permanent staff, hosting a student or graduate can provide short-term advantages. For example, businesses that need temporary support during busy periods can benefit from the increased manpower that an intern brings. Host organizations have also reported that interns successfully helped them clear work backlogs, while others say that they enjoyed greater productivity because permanent staff were relieved of doing more routine tasks. And don’t forget that internships count towards the skills development component of your company’s B-BBEE scorecard.

What to think about before hosting an intern

As economists always like to remind us, there is no such thing as a free lunch. An intern may bring benefits to your business, but there are also costs to consider. Some of these will be financial, for example, the intern’s monthly stipend (although there are funded internship opportunities – see below) and the cost of setting up their workstation. Then there is the time required for mentoring. Remember that while an intern will have already received their academic training, this will be the first time they are putting that theory into practice, and as such, they will require a dedicated staff member to supervise them. This last point is important. Hosting an intern is not the same as hiring a new staff member. Your business will need to provide mentorship and training, and if you don’t have the resources to do this then the internship won’t be beneficial to either party.

Funded internship opportunity

Still, given the evidence that successful internships benefit both the intern and the host organisation, and in the context of this country’s youth unemployment crisis, there is clearly a need for as many South African businesses as possible to mentor young job seekers. With that in mind, Educo Africa, a Cape Town-based youth development NGO, and the National Skills Fund (NSF), have partnered up to launch a new paid internship opportunity. The NSF Graduate and Student Placement Programme incentivises businesses by providing funding for interns’ monthly stipends, as well as associated costs like work-readiness training and support materials e.g. tools and uniforms.

To find out more about this opportunity, visit Educo’s Graduate Student Placement Programme website.


Mark JohnstonMark Johnston joined Educo Africa in January 2017 to head up the NSF Graduate and Student Placement Programme. He has a background in communications and economic development, having worked as a journalist from 2000 to 2011, before moving to New Zealand where he worked in the strategy team for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Mark is passionate about advancing youth skills development, and believes it is one of the key factors necessary to transform our country. Follow @EducoAfrica on Twitter and discover more about Educo Africa‘s activities on Facebook.

[CP_POLLS id=”4″]