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David Lloyd, The Intern Group, UK

After experiencing first-hand the logistical difficulties of organising an internship abroad, David Lloyd co-founded The Intern Group. As Managing Director of the company which last year placed 1,000 interns, he spoke to The PIE about the global demand for work placements and the group’s plans for expansion.

The PIE: How and why did you decide to launch The Intern Group?

"And what I’ve realised recently is, it’s a huge phenomenon in China and China’s actually our quickest growing market"

DL: I set up the company because I myself faced the challenges of trying to find accommodation, trying to find a work placement and trying to make friends in Argentina in 2007. All three elements were very difficult without the support of a full-time organisation and logistics which a company can bring, and so I set it up so a lot of people could have that sort of experience that I had.

The PIE: Why were you in Argentina?

DL: I wanted to learn Spanish. I travelled, I’d done a small trip through a few countries but my favourite country by a mile was Argentina, and I decided I wanted to learn a second language for business but also just personal-wise I wanted to not be a monoglot English!

The PIE: So you just decided to go back and find a job or an internship?

DL: Exactly, and it was incredibly difficult to even find a short-term internship. I wrote to a lot of companies and in the way Latin America works it’s always through some random connection, and eventually that came off. But I probably wasted multiple days writing to in excess of 30 people just to do a short-term placement.

The PIE: Did you start off in Chile?

“Our current focus on growth is on university relationships; we want to complement our online presence with more real world stuff”

DL: No, we started in London but we were selected by Startup Chile and so now we have offices in all of the places where we work but we’re keeping Chile as an administrative hub and we have quite a few people lacerated there because it’s a good time zone for the States and it’s just a really good place to do business.

The PIE: How did you start getting the word out? Was it all online?

DL: It was all online. All was driven by coming very high up on organic Google searches; that was helped by us getting a lot of good PR, and that gave our website a lot of page authority; we showed up immediately in the top three results for searches like “internship London”, “internship Colombia”, “internship Madrid”. We expanded with advertising on third-party websites like Milkround in the UK, but our current focus on growth is on university relationships, so we want to complement our very strong online presence with more real world stuff.

The PIE: Are all your interns university age?

DL: We have a full range; we even had a 48-year-old career changer the other day who went to Colombia to work for one of the biggest sports teams there. They had done a lot of marketing and corporate and they wanted to do sports marketing, so they applied to our programme and now they’re in Colombia working for the second largest football team there. They come from all ages. Our bulk is in university, just graduated, but we want to expand that for people who take a year out before university, MBA students, especially from the States, and more and more career changers as well.

The PIE: Do you think there are countries where the understanding of doing an internship and the benefits of that is better appreciated than others?

“We had a 48-year-old career changer the other day who went to Colombia to work for one of the biggest sports teams there”

DL: A lot. I think the US is by far ahead in this. I think in the UK we’re catching up but it’s still a long way to go, and I’m seeing Australia very much mirror the attitude in the US, that it’s a thing everyone needs to do. And what I’ve realised recently is, it’s a huge phenomenon in China and China’s actually our quickest growing market. We are having a huge amount of interest from Chinese students.

The PIE: Do they all want to do English medium internships so they can have good English?

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