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Why student interns are important for SMEs

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

During the pandemic, organisations have had to pivot and adapt how they operate, with many of those offering internships rescheduling, cancelling or converting to virtual internships. However, virtual internships are continuing to flourish in the current climate with many students still looking for the value that they can bring them.

In previous years, data has shown that SMEs have been a popular graduate destination, and for the remainder of 2020, and in 2021, the positive impact of working within an SME is something that many students will likely be looking for.

In February 2017, Prospects, the UK’s leading graduate careers organisation, asked more than 9,000 students and graduates what their work intentions were for the next year. The survey results showed that of the 63% looking to start a new job or career, 37% hoped to work for an SME, compared to 29% who were considering a large employer.

When respondents were asked what their reasons were for wanting to work in an SME, 6 in 10 students and graduates who wanted to work in a small business explained it was ‘because of the opportunity to work in smaller teams with the expectation that they would have good professional and social interaction’. Additionally, according to LinkedIn’s 2016 Work Satisfaction Survey, almost half (45%) of professionals working for SMEs were ‘very’ or ‘completely’ fulfilled at work.

In an article by Prospects, Jayne Rowley, Deputy Chief Executive at Prospects, said: “Many graduates welcome work in smaller companies, preferring the opportunities and working environment that they offer. In turn, they offer SMEs a fantastic opportunity to bring new skills and ideas into their business, but competition can be fierce to attract the top talent that they need. While they may not always be able to compete on pay, they can look to attract talent in other ways such as through sustainable business practices and flexible working.”

What are the benefits?

One major positive outcome that comes from SMEs working with local student and graduate talent, is that it ensures you provide high value to both your business and the local student community.

One reason for this is that students can provide a fresh perspective that you may not have considered before, due to their generational knowledge of the current market, social, entertainment and tech trends, explains the University of Bristol. This will allow your business to stay current on trends such as social media and other online outputs.

Another great reason for employing young interns in your business is that it allows you to run a trial assessment period for student and graduate talent. Due to the nature of internships being on a short-term basis, this means that there is no commitment required from you to offer them a permanent role. However, it also allows you to scope out future talent and continue hiring students into your business who you know already make a great fit for your company.

Finally, employing student interns will also allow you to increase your productivity and save money in the long run. The process of recruiting and onboarding permeant staff members is often a lengthy and costly process, so why not pool your resources and focus on employing students instead?

Hal Comer, who recently worked for TG Consulting as a student intern, says:

“After completing my internship with an SME, I have come out of it with numerous skill sets, a greater understanding of how a business works as well as a plethora of contacts due to networking.

Upon starting at TG Consulting, I was quite tentative when asking for help or taking control of certain situations. However, this ended up being one of my biggest areas of improvement and I definitely feel that this has come from me working within an SME environment.

Whilst I did work on a business growth project within a small team, I was also given a lot more freedom to improve the business with my own skill sets. For example, one of the areas I wanted to learn more about and felt could enhance the prospects of the business was a bigger emphasis on analytics.

I was able to compile the business’ traffic streaming for their social media accounts and website to unveil what opportunities were available. This sort of experience is something that is unique to the work style of an SME and can be of great help to people entering a new profession.

One of the main difficulties I faced over the course of my internship was working remotely with people I had never met before. Trying to integrate myself with a new group of peers virtually was quite daunting at first. Yet, because of my role, which involved working with employees from all areas of the business, it became very easy to communicate openly. I feel this is a huge benefit of working in an SME as you get to know everyone within the company and therefore, have a greater impact overall.

Overall, the experience I gained from this internship has helped me massively in my future endeavours. Without the chance to work on the analytical aspects of the company, I would have had little to no work experience in the field I am most interested in and potentially, not have been able to get the job that I currently have.

This vital entrance knowledge to put on a CV or tell in an interview could be the difference between getting the job or not. This is why I will cherish the past four months at an SME, and why I feel more students should be given the break in these types of internships.”

Ashleigh Donaldson, a recent student intern at TG Consulting, says:

“My experience at TG Consulting has been an exponential learning curve, equipping me with skills and knowledge that I will carry with me throughout my career. As a new graduate, the working world can seem daunting, especially in the midst of a global pandemic, and the transition from student life to working life can be both exciting and intimidating.

The TG Consulting team provided me with support and guidance throughout this process which has allowed me to move onto the next stage of my career with newfound confidence and a greater sense of self.

My time at TG Consulting has helped shape my future opportunities by allowing me to connect and communicate with new people and build key relationships and networks. My manager, Tonia, gave me the freedom to be creative and proactive in my approach to new projects, giving valuable advice and direction when needed.

The team have been amazing, and we collaborated and communicated well, despite the circumstances. Although remote working has presented various challenges, we managed to adapt and overcome them and work efficiently and effectively as a team.

I believe that having a smaller team is hugely beneficial when working remotely, as communication is easier, and motivation is maintained as all employees feel recognized and supported. In my opinion, there has never been a better time to work for an SME, especially as a student!

As I reflect on my time at TG Consulting, I can only hope that more SMEs follow in TG Consulting’s example and provide more opportunities to engage and incorporate students in their business.

In the current climate, with our circumstances constantly changing and businesses having to rapidly adapt, who better to ease this transition, than students? As students leave university to take on a transition of their own, they are experts at adapting, and can provide valuable insight into your shifting business strategies.

My experience at TG has taught me a lot about SMEs, and how a business is run. My role has been one in which I have worn many hats, with each task allowing me to learn new and different skills.

I put together a company business plan, a proposal, gained a valuable understanding of the financial aspects of an SME and worked on various projects surrounding business development, growth strategy and programme design and delivery. I was also able to communicate and collaborate with clients and investors, which has given me a newfound confidence in navigating a business environment.

The work I did at TG Consulting filled me with positivity, purpose and passion. Not only due to the impact of my work, but mostly because of the people I worked with who have been key in my development. Most of my colleagues were students/graduates, and the energy and enthusiasm that was brought to every project and meeting was brilliant.

Student interns bring a fresh approach, new ideas and a different perspective to a business and are an asset to any workplace. As I take the next step forward in my career, I can only look back with appreciation and admiration of the vital role TG Consulting has played in introducing me to the world of work.”

SMEs who have employed students

Since the start of the global pandemic, TG Consulting has worked to support other micro and small businesses to make the most of the opportunities to take on students for project-related work.

Dan Hadley, CEO of independent business Bali Balm, says:

"We'd never previously considered taking on students or graduates before, the idea was presented by TG Consulting and we took to the opportunity.

The recruitment process with the institutions went smoothly, and TG Consulting helped us to recruit and select the right candidates for our business needs and more importantly, assisted us in ensuring robust induction processes and structured development opportunities were in place.”

Founder of GWhizz Fitness, Genair Otoo says:

“TG Consulting have been great - I didn't know that such an opportunity to take on students as interns existed. What I love about the opportunity is that not only do I get access to high-quality interns from institutions who have increased my brand visibility, but I am also able to help provide opportunities and experience to students who are beginning their professional careers.

I have been in their position before and understand how difficult it can be to get experience in a professional environment so I am glad that TG Consulting have supported me to set up these opportunities for students and that I have had the privilege to be a part of the student’s projects.”

How we can help

Are you a small business interested in exploring how students and graduates can support your business? Get in touch with us to find out how we can support you at

By Katie Watson, TG Consulting Intern


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