Small business: Taking on an intern - Mr Vintage

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Rob Ewan of T-shirt company Mr Vintage in Grey Lynn, Auckland. Photo / Richard Robinson
Rob Ewan of T-shirt company Mr Vintage in Grey Lynn, Auckland. Photo / Richard Robinson

Robert Ewan, founder of Mr Vintage talks to Gill South about why business should take on interns.


In 2004 I started the Bachelor of Business Degree at AUT, and while the experience was brief (lasting just a year before dropping out to focus on mrvintage.co.nz), I was there long enough to know students undertook a work placement for nine weeks as part of their degree. I quickly advertised for marketing and design Interns at AUT and Yoobee Design College (at that time Natcoll Design).

In the seven years we've been in business, we've had over 20 students take up our marketing and design internship opportunities. We largely find students to be hungry and incredibly talented; eight of these students were given full time opportunities and two hold senior roles in the business.

With our internship recruitment we use the same processes as we do when hiring permanent employees, putting a huge focus on company culture. Enthusiasm is great, but the wrong students can be potentially poisonous to the culture.

We don't pay our interns, but don't get too excited, as a business owner you shouldn't view this as free labour. Students take up resources and your most valuable commodity - time. As with any new employee there is a certain level of training and briefing needed to ensure they're utilised and value adding.

Overall we've found internships to be a thoroughly rewarding experience, and my advice for business owners and students would be:

For owners:

- Contact local universities and schools and advertise your position.

- Be specific with the role you want the student to do.

- Use the same recruitment process you would for full time staff.

- Set a fixed period for the internship, for example one day a week for three months.

For students:

- Treat the position as a trial, rather than just experience.

- Seek out businesses you admire and are passionate about.

- Remember your attitude is being watched as closely as your work.

- NZ Herald

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