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Why do we hire so few interns in New Zealand?

Trent Mankelow, Guest Post. 19 June 2020, 5:00 am
Why do we hire so few interns in New Zealand?

Last summer, 352 interns were hired through Summer of Tech

It sounds like a lot. 

It's really not. 

Another 2,000+ students went to the trouble of creating a detailed profile, getting it reviewed, making tweaks, attending one of 85 bootcamps, turning up to our big Meet & Greet and/or Speed interview events...and didn't get a job. 

Very few employers are taking a chance on our freshest talent. Why not? 

Well, according to a 2018 survey of 396 tech employers by the Digital Skills Forum (DSF), the three most common reasons are:

  • Lack of time/resources to properly support interns. Of all the excuses, this is the one I buy the most. If you don't have the time to properly mentor a student, you shouldn't hire them. But, here's the deal, hiring a student is no different to hiring anyone. It's always a pain in the ass: you have to write a job ad, look at all the CVs that come in, interview, onboard, manage. It always takes time and effort to do this well. The investment is worth it - 73% of the 2019 students were retained beyond summer, and of course, the beauty is that you don't have to retrain them or break them out of bad habits!

  • The cost. Last year the average Summer of Tech wage was $23.67/hour. Multiply that by a typical 400-hour internship and you get $9,468*. That's not trivial, especially if you are a small business. But this only looks at the 'cost' half of the cost-benefit equation. When we surveyed the 121 employers who took part in last year's programme, 92% of them agreed or strongly agreed that interns do useful work. As one of the respondents said, "[She] really helped with the workload during a busy time," or as someone else put it a little less diplomatically, "[They] can make other employees realise they could perhaps be slacking off a bit!" 

  • Not having suitable work for interns to undertake. This is a failure of imagination. Is your internal tech stack perfect? You don't have any projects that you never quite get to? No blue-sky proof-of-concepts that can help you imagine the future? No desire to experiment with the latest frameworks, languages, or techniques? No work that, when handed off, will provide freedom for permanent staff to pursue creative or more advanced projects? Nowhere where you could do with a new perspective to an old problem?

Another common complaint from the DSF respondents was that there wasn't enough guidance on how to host interns: where to find them, when they are available, how to screen and select them, etc. With processes and systems well-honed from 14 years' experience, Summer of Tech can help.

With 19,000 students studying IT in this country, there's no shortage of tech talent, but there is a big gap when it comes to opportunities for students and graduates to start their career. So, why don't you give it a go this year? After all, someone took a punt on you once upon a time..

* By the way, in 2019 Callaghan Innovation approved 1300+ grants to the tune of $8,460 (plus GST) per student working on R&D projects - you too might be able to get most of your intern's wage covered

Trent Mankelow is the CEO at Summer of Tech, a regular reader of pleated-jeans.com and is currently attempting to learn about interior design (a subject he knows nothing about).


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