Unpaid Internships exploiting young workers
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Unpaid Internships exploiting young workers

Whilst many of the issues which affect HR jobs in Southampton are given blanket media coverage, such as the minimum wage and the zero hours contracts, there are some which are given comparatively little.

One of these is the issue of internships, and specifically the news that one in four interns are receiving less than the minimum wage for their work.

As a result, the Government is launching a service which will not only support those interns but also discourage employers against the exploitation of their interns.

However, for many this is not enough and there are calls for a completely ban on unpaid and unfairly paid internships.

Intern Aware

Gus Baker who founded Intern Aware commented “Unpaid internships are bad for young people, their parents, business and society. Yet internships have become a pre-requisite for graduates. Alan Milburn reported in March 2012 that more than 30% of newly-hired graduates had previously interned for their employer, rising to 50% in some sectors. And the 2012 Wilson Review on business-university collaboration found a ‘lack of work experience appears as a key barrier to young people, including graduates, in securing employment”.

Furthermore there are concerns that so few people can afford to take on an internship, and in turn gain the experience that can be gained from one, that they will be permanently “locked out” of the careers they deserve.

A large element of the problem with internships is that many of them exist in industries such as media, advertising, banking and fashion. The majority of these industries have their roots, and as such the home of the internship, within London where the cost of living is exponentially higher than in other areas of the country.

Those applicants without other means of funding their living costs are also likely to lose out on the experience which could give them a valuable foot in the door of the career they have studied for.

Bad for business

So far, much of the criticism has been levied towards the businesses and employers who “exploit” the young applicants. However, there is also a consideration that the current trend for unpaid or poorly paid interns could be just as harmful to business as they are to the applicants.

Not only do the businesses who offer low paid internships cutting themselves a small portion of the available market of employees, simply because many cannot afford to take on the position, but in addition, the growing calls for fines and prosecution to be offered to those who do “exploit” the interns could see businesses being fined simply for following a trend.