First this weekend the Guardian did a big piece about how employers are exploiting graduate internships. In it Polly Curtis, Guardian Education Editor, highlighted how companies are exploiting graduates by offering the work for free with little prospect of a job at the end.
Moreover, this seems to be the mind set for British employers – whether they are in the public or private sector. The assumption is that there are so many graduates in the marketplace why would an employer offer to pay for their services when so many are willing to do it for free.
But “free” comes at a price for the graduates – especially if mummy and daddy can afford to support your career ambitions in the media, PR, marketing. Please note, these are the most oversubscribed professions and as a result they are the most exploited.
This point was underscored by Tyler Brule in his Fast Lane column in the FT (Inert interns need not apply) where he decried the high expectations of trustafarian wannabes who wanted to work on photoshoots but wouldn’t demean themselves with photocopying.
Between both articles the truth is that the UK doesn’t really get internships (an American word if we are honest).
At GREEN we do a lot of work experience placements, usually with high school sixth formers or undergraduates, for which we do not pay. We hope, and believe, we enrich these young people’s experience of what the workplace is like and generally we aim to give them genuine business projects to work on.
However, we are now doing our first internship (for the right candidate) for a 12-month stint in our business during which they will earn significantly more than the minimum wage and learn a hell of a lot about what it is like to work in a communications business.
Interestingly, this coincides with our work with Graduates Yorkshire which has just launched a programme of paid internships in Yorkshire whereby it is seeking to place up to 80 graduates with companies in the region in the next six month up to March 2010.
Polly, at The Guardian, is right that not enough is being done to legitimize and monetize intern’s input into the economy and Tyler is correct in that not enough is being done to match graduate expectations with the reality of the workplace.
However, initiatives like Graduates Yorkshire will close the gap. Watch this space.
Posted by News Update at 6:21 PM