Focus: People Management - CRUK to run permanent intern scheme

Graduates and professionals seeking a career change are the targets, writes Graham Willgoss.

Cancer Research UK has launched a permanent internship scheme to target graduates and people looking for a career change.

The programme will run three times a year after a ten-week pilot scheme was successfully completed in July. Ten interns began their placements, each lasting about 12 weeks, on Monday.

More than 100 people applied for the places available in the charity's fundraising, marketing, law and communications departments.

Annette Breeden, head of volunteering at CRUK, says the programme is designed to address the huge number of requests it receives for voluntary placements every year.

"We're delighted both with the scale of the response and the calibre of the applicants," she says. "It has been incredibly high, ranging from Oxbridge graduates to professionals seeking a career change."

Breeden believes the scheme has proved popular because, she says, it has "tapped into a need. It offers an opportunity to make a career in a sector that is notoriously difficult to start out in. People are looking for serious experience to put on their CV - volunteering for CRUK is a good way to achieve that."

The specific needs of each applicant are identified in a two-day induction in which they are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the charity's activities.

"We try and give our volunteers a grounding in a range of activities, including a laboratory tour," says Breeden. "People often don't realise CRUK has so many different aspects."

Interns are assessed on what they want to learn and how and where the charity can best make use of their skills. Specific departments requesting an intern are also assessed to ensure the structure is there to support the intern and the people they are working with.

Katie Blunden and Wing Li both took part in the pilot intern scheme over the summer. Li, now in her final year studying English Literature at the University of Edinburgh, says: "I was looking for first-hand experience at a high-profile charitable organisation in a more practical area than my degree."

She worked in CRUK's personal development department, helping to create the charity's first internal staff newsletter. "I felt I had a lot of input into the organisation," she says. "The experience that I now have is priceless."

Despite university students' enthusiasm for charity work - almost one graduate in ten applied for a job in the sector, according to The Times - only CRUK (74th) and Oxfam (53rd) are ranked among this year's Times Top 100 Graduate Employers.

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