Adopt an Intern drive appeals to top firms to join

Joy Lewis, chief executive of Adopt an Intern, hopes government funding will continue. Picture: Joey Kelly
Joy Lewis, chief executive of Adopt an Intern, hopes government funding will continue. Picture: Joey Kelly
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A COMPANY that places graduates into paid internships has launched a “corporate fostering” programme to encourage more of Scotland’s big firms to participate.

Adopt an Intern, based in Edinburgh, has helped to 
find opportunities for 350 graduates since it was set up by Joy Lewis three years ago.

Lewis is hoping for confirmation that funding from the Scottish Government will be renewed so that she can embark on the next stage of the business’s expansion.

“Corporate fostering is aimed at encouraging big organisations to get involved by sponsoring a small employer to take on graduates,” she said. She is already involved in talks with two firms and hopes to have a number signed up around the country by the end of the year.

The Scottish Government has provided £500,000 in three annual tranches to the end of last month and a decision is awaited on the next round. It is thought Holyrood would like to develop a longer-term strategic plan around the initiative. The company has also received £295,000 in European structural funding.

Adopt an Intern emerged from the Centre for Scottish Public Policy think-tank and now has its own board and advisers. Graduates are paid at least the minimum wage, whether the work is full or part-time. The government funding supports those employers, such as charities, who may struggle to meet the full cost 
of employment. These account for about a third of placements.

“We promote a paid internship culture and give those who do not pay a hard time,” said Lewis.

Adopt an Intern says it costs a start-up business or third sector organisation £2,000 to fund a graduate for 240 hours (three months, part-time). For £10,000 a company could foster 30 graduates.

More than 1.6 million 18 to 24-year-olds are out of work across the UK, and since 2008 the number in Scotland has risen by 83 per cent from 55,000 to more than 100,000.

Lewis said adopting and fostering is a “socially responsible initiative which is delivering results and making a real difference to the lives of Scotland’s graduates”.

The firm says 76 per cent of interns go on to full-time employment, rising to almost 90 per cent when public sector and social enterprise jobs are excluded. Only 3 per cent do not achieve a “positive destination” of work, further education or another internship.

“We believe internships are the way forward for small employers as few of them have their own HR departments,” said Lewis.

The Adopt an Intern initiative operates across Scotland and has caught the attention of overseas governments. An exchange programme has been set up with Germany, and Lewis has been approached to do something similar in China and Singapore.

She has made contacts through Scottish Enterprise’s GlobalScot initiative and other networking bodies.

Lewis runs Adopt an Intern with the help of two part-time staff and she hopes that the 
organisation can become self-funding.