Internships – a fairer system for all?

Internships – a fairer system for all?

Internships have always been a great way to get the necessary experience to begin applying for jobs in that particular area – especially when it comes to graduate recruitment. If you have completed an internship, it shows potential employers that you also have the necessary drive and ambition required to succeed. So what is not to like about them?

The Social Mobility Commission (SMC) has published the findings from a recent poll of 5000 people, regarding their opinions on internships as they currently exist and operate. This poll has been carried out just ahead of the second reading of a Lords Bill that seeks to end the practice of unpaid internships. Three quarters of the people who responded, supported the SMCs insistence that unpaid internships over four weeks long must stop.

There are around 70,000 unpaid internships every year in this country, and have become an important route into many graduate level careers. And internships are growing in popularity, with a recent report from the Institute for Public Policy Research stating that the number of internships has grown by 50% since 2010.

However, is an unpaid internship ethical, and is it fair?

Are internships being used as a way of hiring cheap or free labour, and are they blocking graduate career paths for those who can’t afford to work for a period of time unpaid? This creates a situation where a chunk of society can’t get the experience they need to be able to gain access to the career of their choice, and to perhaps the career to which their talent leads them.

Consequently employers are missing out on a vital pool of talent – those who are unable to work unpaid.

As a result, the SMC and MPs have called for all internships which last over 4 weeks to be paid at least the minimum wage. However, without government backing, this is unlikely to succeed – and government backing has been sadly lacking. So, we will see what happens over the coming weeks.

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