Econsultancy is partnering with Inspiring Interns to launch a new Graduate Bootcamp focusing on e-commerce and digital marketing.

The week-long programme aims to deliver core digital skills and practical application alongside employability training and career coaching.

Programme graduates will be offered the opportunity to take a three-month internship in a digitally focused role to put their newly acquired digital knowledge into practice.

Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith supports Inspiring Interns, so I spoke to her to find out why she thinks digital internships are important for graduates.

Why are you backing Inspiring Interns?

I am really impressed by the work that they do in helping graduates get linked up to businesses, and particularly small businesses that ordinarily they wouldn’t have the ability to link up with. 

It allows people to get their CVs in front of people in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible and by linking up with Econsultancy it broadens the visibility within the industry and allows the scheme to reach new employers who might be looking for an intern.

More established sectors tend to have embedded routes for work experience and recruitment, but Inspiring Interns can help in new sectors or places where there’s innovation and younger businesses that don’t have big human resources departments.

There’s a real benefit to both the employers and graduates.

What do graduates stand to benefit from a digital internship?

When internships are well designed with set goals, and that’s one of the things that Inspiring Interns does very well, graduates get a great opportunity to see exactly how a business works.

They see different parts of the business and get hands on experience of things they may have learned about during their degree schemes. An intern can get involved in a huge variety of tasks, such as marketing, innovation and product development within a real workplace.

And then there’s also the everyday experience of working for a company, like being part of a team, developing working relationships with colleagues and working together with people of all different ages.

As it’s within the digital industry you will see a sector that is developing so quickly that you can only really see how it works by being part of it, and sometimes interns get to help the company innovate and contribute to the development of the business.

Then you have the opportunity to create the job that you want within that company, or you have experience that looks fantastic on your CV, or you may have developed a contact that can get you a job elsewhere.

Would you recommend a digital internship to graduates who may not previously have considered a career in digital?

I think that if you already have an interest in digital, or maybe you are really interested in marketing or business, then you can get experience of all of those through a digital internship, and you can do it in a business that is fluid and perhaps has a less rigid structure than in traditional industries.

Even if you then decide it’s not the sector for you, you will have gained a huge amount of experience that will be valuable for your future career.

Some graduates may be put off by the idea of doing unpaid work. Why is it a better option than simply applying for a full time job?

If you are totally clear about what you want to do and can get a fulltime job straight out of university then great, go for it, but a lot of people don’t know what they want to do, or in the current market there might not be a job there for you right when you leave university.

So where it’s for a limited time period, has a proper structure and you are at least getting your expenses back, it may well be a good route in for a lot of people.

If someone wants to pay their intern, then that’s even better, but I don’t think a paid position is necessarily always the best option in the long term. I don’t take the view that you should never take unpaid work, but it has to be a good quality internship with proper goals and a structure.

What do businesses stand to gain from taking on an intern?

If you are a growing business, or if you have a project that you don’t have resource to manage, the scheme allows you to bring someone in who is young, enthusiastic and hungry for an opportunity to prove themself.

And if that person is approaching it in the right way, they should be looking to create a job they can fill which may present new business opportunities for your company.

So businesses shouldn’t just see it as a way to get in some free labour on a short-term basis?

It’s wrong to just think that you will just get some cheap labour for a few months. The point is that you get someone who can bring in energy and new ideas to your business, and who can contribute to developing your company.

You have to invest time and effort but you may well make really important contribution to their career and your business.

Why are digital skills important for the British economy?

If we want to survive a really difficult time we need to look at how we can make our businesses more innovative and efficient, and the digital industry is a great opportunity to do that.

The digital sector allows us to create new businesses that can compete internationally and help our established businesses to compete as well. If interns can help bring energy and drive to these businesses then this scheme is helping to benefit the overall economy.