Google, IBM, BA Back IT Intern Scheme Despite Job Cuts

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Against a backdrop of companies having to cut headcount and even forgo paying staff, a scheme to encourage businesses to hire paid interns has been launched

British businesses are being encouraged to take on interns in their IT departments despite many companies being forced to cut headcounts and slash tech budgets due to the recession.

Government backed IT skills council e-skills UK announced a programme this week designed to get more companies to hire technical graduates and help them gain business experience. The “e-skills internship” scheme – which has the backing of companies including BA, Google and IBM – encourages companies to take on graduates for paid employment to help them get access to the real-world skills that companies increasingly need, the organisation claims.

“Recent research on the extent to which IT graduates are prepared for work in a business environment reveals that while employers are very satisfied with the technical competence of new graduates, there is a need for graduates to demonstrate stronger business, communication and interpersonal skills,” the company said in statement.

The scheme is expected to get underway from the late 2010 – time perhaps for the economy to recover – but a pilot has already begun. Of the tech companies that are reported to be backing the scheme, Google and IBM have been forced to lay off employees, while BA has had to ask some staff to work for free due to record recent losses.

IBM has already laid off around 10,000 workers in the US this year. It has also been reported that the company is planning further cuts in Britain, Germany and Ireland but a spokesman for IBM said that no such announcement has been made so far.

Google has also made redundancies this year – although most appear to be sales and marketing rather than technology roles. The search engine company announced on 26 March that it would be laying off 200 employees from its sales and marketing teams, citing organisational redundancy as a reason.

British Airways has been hit extremely badly by the downturn and recently asked some employees to work for free for a period. Unions reacted angrily after British Airways asked its 40,000 staff to work without pay for up to a month according to reports.

However, although many companies have been forced to make staff redundant or impose pay cuts or freezes, some industry bodies and the government claim that the UK is still suffering from a skills crisis in some key areas of tech. In May this year, it was announced that companies winning Government IT contracts will have to spend money on training according to skills secretary John Denham.

“In tough economic times like these, there is a danger that employers will reduce their investment in the skills of their employees as they look to cut costs,” said Denham. “But research shows that companies who don’t train are 2.5 times more likely to fail than those who do,” he said.