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Bright Blue has recently started a number of Think Forums. These are spaces for those on the centre-right to come together to chat about politics and policy. Tom Sykes, who facilitates the Business Forum, has written a report about the first meeting.

Last month the @bizthinkforum met for the first time in Vauxhall, but a stone’s throw away from Westminster. The subject of our initial discussion was ‘What’s wrong with British business?’ and we were quickly inundated with ideas and thoughts around future topics for discussion.

However, the primary theme from our forum was internships: how they work, how they could be funded and the relevance of this type of work experience to our prospective workforce.

The issues

Internships are a vital way for students and prospective employees to gain commercial experience, enhance their knowledge of industry as well enhance their CVs in view of prospective employment.

It was felt that in the current buyers’ market for employers, there is an increased need for prospective employees to demonstrate commercial skills and relevant experience beyond an academic or general work experience qualifications.

The assertion was made that all prospective employees should have access to an internship. At present, this is not possible due to two primary issues:

  1. The vast level of demand for internships and lack of supply
  2. The lack of funding available for internships

The impacts

As a result of these issues, there is a risk that students are not able to acquire the necessary experience to prepare them for full time employment or to meet the requirements of prospective employers.

Detailed issues

  1. The vast level of demand for internships and lack of supply.

It was felt that there is a limited number of internships available to prospective employees within the industry at large, this, combined with the obvious demand for internships driven by recognition of the appetite of employers of such experience result in an imbalance between the supply and demand of internships.

2. The lack of funding available for internships.

It was felt that there is limited funding available for internships and many internships are unpaid. Therefore students must use savings or seek support from others to fund the costs associated with performing an internship I.e. Hotels, transport, subsistence, opportunity cost.

As a result, this limits social mobility as only those with suitable economic means can accept and perform unpaid internships. This means that many prospective employees across the country cannot gain the experience desired by employers and as a consequence fail to obtain suitable employment.

Solution

Based upon these underlying factors, we propose the following:

  • All persons aged 20-23 will be able to claim the equivalent of job seekers allowance (upon a means tested basis) for two weeks to fund an accepted, legitimate internship (internship allowance).
  • All businesses with reported gross profit in excess of £50k will be subjected to an internship tax to help fund the internship allowance.
  • Businesses subject to the tax are eligible for an exemption if it can be demonstrated a meaningful internship programme is in place at the business. ‘Meaningful’ is based upon the size of the business relative to the number of internships offered and the nature of the programme.
  • The development of a recognised ‘approved internship provider accreditation’ to incentivise small and medium sized businesses to develop sustainable and commercially worthwhile internship programmes for candidates.
  • Off-set the real cost of the internship allowance against value of up skilling prospective resources, reduced future unemployment volumes, potential to increase business output and drive social mobility.

The @bizthinkforum meets again in mid July – please tweet us or email tomsykes@hotmail.co.uk for more details.