Career Ready CEO:How paid internships can secure young talent

With more and more charities looking at ways of attracting young people into the sector, Career Ready CEO Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa looks at how paid internships can secure this talent

Securing young talent should be the priority of every employer. It’s the most critical step we can take to ensure that we’re set for future success.

In the past, this has often been difficult for us in the charity sector. After all, how can we compete with the salaries and benefits of the private sector?

Moreover, it can be difficult for young people from diverse and under-represented backgrounds to kickstart a career in the charity sector. A university degree followed by an unpaid internship (or two) is often par for the course when it comes to getting a foot in the door. While often understandable due to stretched finances, this has meant that the sector has cut itself off from a large pipeline of young, diverse talent.

It’s imperative that this is changed. And the good news is that it could soon be.

Research from Bupa shows that there’s never been a time when young people have been more attracted to working in our sector. As Generation Z are increasingly looking to work for employers who can enable them to live their values and make a positive social impact. One in three (31%) would turn down roles in companies with poor ESG credentials, and over half (54%) would take a pay cut to work for a business that reflects their ethics, on average sacrificing more than a quarter (27%) of their salary.

Our priority now is providing young people with opportunity and access to kickstart their career in the charity sector, as their desire is clearly there.

At Career Ready, our research and experience show that paid internships are one of the best ways of making this possible. For 20 years, we’ve worked with businesses of all sectors to provide young people aged 16-18 from diverse and under-represented backgrounds with paid, four-week internships.

Not only has this transformed young lives and boosted social mobility, but it has helped employers to identify young talent and raise awareness of their sector, with 72% of employers saying they would hire their Career Ready intern and many then hiring them as apprentices.

We now want to ensure that charities have the same opportunity to access young talent and transform young lives.

Yet we know that this can be a challenge, especially for smaller and medium sized charities. Due to limited operating costs, it can be difficult to find budget to host a talented young person for a paid internship. But it’s an investment which we know will pay dividends for years to come, not just for each individual charity but for the whole sector.

That’s why we’re delighted to be working in partnership with the Bupa Foundation to launch an Internship Investment Fund for charities.

Available to charities with an income of less than £5million, it will provide 17 young people on the Career Ready programme with a four-week internship paying the Real Living Wage. This will help the young talent to discover the rewarding careers available in the sector, gain vital workplace experience, and kickstart their careers, hopefully in the charity sector.

And by making this funding available to smaller charities, we hope it can serve as inspiration, as well as impact evidence, for larger charities on the business and social value of providing young people with paid internships.

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