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Internships attract more experienced and older applicants

By Matt Cherry, CNNRadio
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A tough economy means a new breed of interns for companies
  • Applications are coming from those who are older and with more experience
  • Internships can pave the way for full-time employment

(CNN) -- They're not just for college kids anymore.

It appears the struggling job market means more competition for fall internships -- and age is no boundary according to a new survey by CareerBuilder.com. It found 23 percent of employers are seeing experienced workers apply for internships with them. These applications have come from people who either have more than 10 years of experience or who are age 50 and older.

"This economic downtown has really redefined what an internship is," said Mike Erwin, senior career advisor for the website.

Erwin says while internships have traditionally been seen as a way for college students and entry-level workers to get experience for their resume, the survey indicates mature workers now need this as well in order to re-enter the workforce.

"They need to make sure that they're filling in the gaps while being unemployed, so they're going ahead and taking these internships whether they're paid or unpaid so they can get more experience, and hopefully land a full-time job," Erwin said.

Erwin believes many who make up this older, more experienced set of prospective interns won't be restricting themselves to the field they have been working in previously.

"You're going to find that they're going to go after the industries that are hiring and the ones where they know they have a chance of getting a job," Erwin said.

Erwin says the good news for those who succeed in landing an internship is they stand a decent shot of it turning into something bigger. Just over half of the companies surveyed said they were likely to hire interns as full-time, permanent employees.

"So college students, entry level, mature and experienced workers are all vying for this extended job interview to hopefully get them a full-time job," said Erwin.

So what's in it for the companies that are doing the hiring?

"They know they've lost a lot of intellectual capital when they've had to lay people off," Erwin said. "So you're going to find they're going to bring back mature and experienced workers for internships as well as entry-level and college students who are going to bring a whole new feel to the job.

CareerBuilder surveyed more than 2,500 hiring managers between May 18 and June 3, 2010. About a quarter of respondents said they planned to hire interns during the remainder of 2010 to help support workloads, while 14 percent anticipate hiring paid interns and 7 percent said they would not be paying their interns.

When it comes to job duties, 73 percent of companies said they were looking to give interns hands-on experience related to their goals, 52 percent wanted them for office support, 35 percent planned to bring them in to work with customers, 23 percent required them for running errands and 19 percent needed interns for office maintenance work.