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I've worked in a number of internship/summer roles/student schemes and one problem I have come across is that often, opportunities including interesting tasks and training courses are denied to students because "you're not here long enough" (which includes year-long internships).

A very trivial example of this experience - at one of my former employers I was involved in some chemical work. Testing equipment regularly used a compound called Methyl Salicylate in small, controlled, non-toxic (i.e. not pure) doses. However, I was not allowed to use this, instead being limited to only using water. The reason for this was, apparently, safety and training for the correct handling of the compound required time with other members of staff at the company, which the company were unwilling to spend.

Another, more common example includes being denied access to training courses.

I realise that, as an enterprise, a company wishes to make investments such as training opportunities in staff that have accepted permanent contracts, rather than temporary ones; however, if you're part of a company for a year-long internship, I can't help but feel I am also entitled to some (reasonable) development investment.

  • Am I right? Obviously, you have to be reasonable in what you are asking, but assuming the company regularly offers training schemes and progression opportunities to full time employees, assuming the task, course or opportunity is relevant or useful to the company and my role, is the fact that I am employed on a fixed term contract a sufficient reason to say no.
  • If so, how does one approach their employer, manager etc and ask to be considered for these opportunities where relevant? Is there anything specific you can do to make your case?
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Is this an unpaid internship, or some situation where you're earning money for the work? –  weronika Apr 11 '12 at 16:36

3 Answers 3

Yes. Companies are often unwilling to invest time and training on employees that are not going to stick around.

As an intern you are being brought in to help get some practical experience. The company needs to manage its workforce and liabilities. You should not expect the company to treat you like an employee because you are not.

What you can do is develop a relationship with your supervisor. If you are interested in getting full time work with the company let them know and find out how to maximize your chance of getting hired on. You will find the companies are more willing to train assets that they feel they will benefit from later.

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The important thing to get across to people is that as an intern you are already costing them a lot of money, so the extra cost of a little training could be small compared to value they gain in the short term from you having had that training.

Using your example, if providing you with Methyl Salicylate handling training would mean that you could take the load off a permanent employee who is currently over-stretched, or allow someone else to provide even more business value than they are currently providing, you might be able to convince them to authorise the training.

As with many things in business, you have to provide a business case for anything you want to spend company money on. You may not have all of the figures needed for a full cost-benefit analysis, but just having the discussion with your manager/mentor could be all that is needed to find other areas where a business case could be argued.

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+1 for the money & business case angle. Interns can be great for grunt work, but the time (and money) it takes to train them up is hard to justify for 3 months. –  voretaq7 Apr 11 '12 at 23:18
    
+1 for the business case angle also –  GuyM Dec 5 '12 at 22:56

Obviously, you have to be reasonable in what you are asking, but assuming the company regularly offers training schemes and progression opportunities to full time employees, assuming the task, course or opportunity is relevant or useful to the company and my role, is the fact that I am employed on a fixed term contract a sufficient reason to say no.

There is the question of how long after the training will you be in the position so that the company could recover the cost of the investment that is either being dismissed or ignored here. Are you really thinking that a company should pay for you to take a course right before the contract would expire? Think about that as there is the question of even in a year long internship, where would one expect to have the training be done such that it is justifiable from a cost basis to be done for the employee.

There is something to be said here for making the case of how the company is spending $x for the employee to take a course and this will be recovered by an improvement of $y/hour in productivity gains, improved employee engagement or some other benefit since otherwise what is supposed to be the company's motive to pay for the training? Some companies, particularly large multinational companies would likely claim it isn't fiscally responsible to incur that kind of cost.

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