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  • Trends in One-Year, Five-Year Intern Retention Rates

    June 09, 2021 | By Kevin Gray

    Trends & Predictions
    An illustration of people analyzing data.

    TAGS: internships, trends and predictions, benchmarks, spotlight, retention

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    One of the benefits of employers converting their interns to full-time hires is evident in employee retention rates.  

    NACE’s 2021 Internship & Co-op Survey Report shows that, at both the one-year and five-year marks, hires who have interned with the employer (internal interns) are more likely to be retained than hires who interned with other organizations (external interns) and hires with no internship experience.

    After one year, internal interns are 16% more likely to be retained than external interns. Furthermore, internal interns are 32% more likely to be retained than new hires who lack internship experience. (See Figure 1.)

    Although the gaps narrow somewhat at the five-year mark, they are still substantial: Internal interns are 9% more likely to be retained than external interns and 15% more likely to be retained than those with no internship experience.

    While these differentials are meaningful, the retention rates for almost all types of interns and employment durations have dipped in recent years. In fact, all retention rates are down since 2018, and there are just several small fluctuations. Most notably, the retention rate for internal interns hit a high of 71.4% in 2019, but, even then, that bump was less than 1% from 2018 and has dipped nearly 4% since.

    The 2021 Internship & Co-op Survey Report explores key aspects of employers’ internship and co-op programs, including hiring projections, conversion and retention rates, compensation data (wages and benefits), recruiting strategies, and information about program structure. This report also includes historical analyses of the data. Data collection took place from December 9, 2020, to February 5, 2021. There were 227 NACE member respondents, representing 25.7% of eligible member respondents. The survey was also distributed to nonmember companies from which an additional 39 responses were received. The 2021 Internship & Co-op Survey Report is available in MyNACE.

    Figure 1: One-Year, Five-Year Retention Rates for Internship Experience: 2017-21

    Year One-Year Retention Rates Five-Year Retention Rates
    Internal Intern External Intern No Experience Internal Intern External Intern No Experience
    2021 67.7% 51.7% 35.7% 41.5% 32.1% 26.1%
    2020 68.7% 55.7% 40.3% 42.2% 39.8% 29.1%
    2019 71.4% 59.0% 42.4% 43.9% 37.3% 27.8%
    2018 70.6% 65.8% 46.3% 50.2% 52.3% 41.0%
    2017 70.7% 57.3% 46.2% 54.3% 41.1% 35.8%
    Source: 2021 Internship & Co-Op Survey Report, National Association of Colleges and Employers
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