Ask a professional: Internships

Chris BanksWe asked Chris Banks, Founder of food and drinks business Big Thoughts, former Managing Director of Coca-Cola GB and Birmingham alumnus, why he feels work experience is vital for graduates entering the world of work. 

Why do you believe internships are important for today's graduates?

The graduate employment market is intensely competitive. Many employers don't just want bright and intelligent young people; they want evidence of ‘employability', or being ready for the world of work. Internships represent a great way for the young person to gain some experience of the workplace; and offer employers the opportunity of clarifying what they are looking for and perhaps even assessing interns for future employment.

Do internships give graduates a competitive edge?

Yes. Just think about it from this perspective; who would you prefer to employ? Someone with no experience of your sector, or perhaps even of the world of work; or someone who already knows a little about the organisation, or the sector, or what it's like to work full-time, or is able to give examples of what they have learned and contributed at work? It is vital for graduates who have completed internships to emphasise all those benefits to employers when they are applying for jobs.

Do you ever receive feedback from your interns?

When I have met University undergraduates who have taken part in the internships programme, I have been really encouraged to hear how much they have learned; and I’ve been struck by the way they have taken maximum advantage of the opportunity they have been given. My advice would be to use your internship to gain a practical insight into the world of work; focus your career direction; and learn real skills that will be beneficial when you are working full-time.

You support internships at the University – why did you decide to get involved in this programme?

I felt that supporting the University's plans for internships was something practical I could do to help both the University and its graduates. Birmingham graduates are seeking employment at a very competitive time. Therefore, alongside a focus on academic excellence and world-class teaching and learning, the University is putting a priority on preparing undergraduates for the world of work.

If you would like to feature in a future 'Ask a professional' or would like to suggest a topic and some questions for a future edition of the newsletter, please email alumnicommunications@contacts.bham.ac.uk