Internships are now considered to be a crucial first step on the path to a career for any undergraduate. They give students exposure to some of the UK’s biggest companies whilst gaining valuable work experience for their CV.
Since September 2017, RateMyPlacement.co.uk advertised nearly 300 internships across a wide range of industries, and with an average of 51 applications per job, the competition for places has never been more fierce.
We were shocked this week to learn that, according to the latest research, 40% of young people have done at least one unpaid internship! The Sutton Trust’s report: “Internships – Unpaid, Unadvertised, Unfair,” also revealed that around 2,000 graduates are in unpaid internships six months after graduation.
Companies offering unpaid internships risk turning off the best students; social mobility, equality and diversity matter hugely to Generation Z. The costs of living whilst undertaking work experience have soared – it’s now financially impossible for most students to undertake one without help from their parents.
This in turn is hampering social mobility, effectively locking out young talent from future careers because they cannot afford to get work experience.
Our own Oliver Sidwell comments, “It’s shocking to hear that 40% of young people have done at least one unpaid internship. It’s important for employers to realise that they will be missing out on huge amounts of talent from all walks of life by not paying their interns. It’s time for employers to take responsibility for their actions and create schemes that are paid and inclusive, supporting the whole of the next generation of talent with their career choices.”
To add to these shocking statistics, the report highlights that many schemes are not advertised to the public. As much as 84% of internships were not advertised online in 2017! This pushes the archaic notion that it’s ‘who you know, not what you know’, alienating candidates from low or middle income families.
The Sutton Trust is calling for action to be taken by backing a bill put forward by Conservative peer Lord Holmes of Richmond. The bill will tighten the current minimum wage laws to ban unpaid internships that last over 4 weeks, as well as ensure that longer schemes pay National Minimum Wage, or ideally, the London Living Wage.
Founder and Chairman of the Sutton Trust, Sir Peter Lampl said, “Around 40% of young people who have carried out an internship have done so unpaid. All internships over four weeks should be paid at least the minimum wage of £7.50 per hour. Failure to do so prevents young people from low and moderate-income backgrounds from accessing jobs in some of the most desirable sectors such as journalism, fashion, the arts and politics.
“All internship positions should be advertised publicly. Large numbers of internships are never advertised and instead offered through informal networks. This practice locks out young people without connections. Also, the process by which potential candidates are selected for internships should uphold the same standards of recruitment as for other jobs.”