UNIVERSITIES SHOULD BACK THEIR GRADUATES, NOT THOSE WHO SEEK TO EXPLOIT THEM
Remember the unpaid press office internship at Spurs football club? And the “sales assistant internship” at the designer fashion brand Balenciaga? Both were advertised by universities (the first was by the University of Sussex; the second by the University of the Arts London).
At Graduate Fog, we feel strongly that universities should not be helping private companies to recruit young staff who they do not intend to pay a wage for their labour. Interestingly, the university careers advisers’ official body AGCAS agrees with us, warning its members:
“Current advice from AGCAS to its members is that they shouldn’t advertise or broker internships that contravene legislation.”
That sounds pretty clear to us – yet too many universities still aren’t listening.
They know it isn’t right but they continue to promote these positions so that their students (and not those from rival universities) will bag these internships. That way, that’s another graduate they can claim is ‘employed’ in their chosen industry, thereby making their courses look more successful at helping graduates into work than they actually are.
And there is another reason why Graduate Fog finds this so annoying. For two years, we have been working hard with campaign groups like Intern Aware, Interns Anonymous and Internocracy to raise awareness among young people about the facts on internships (For very good reasons, the law says that if you’re doing proper work, you MUST be paid at least the minimum wage – end of story).
Yet every time a university posts an advert for an unpaid internship on their job board, or emails it out to their students, our message is undermined. Still, too many students and graduates say to us: “But unpaid internships can’t be illegal – my university advertises them all the time.” It makes our blood boil that they are not using their position to inform you of your rights (still only 10% of graduates even know that unpaid internships are illegal) and of the fierce battle that is raging – and how they can get involved.
Does your university advertise unpaid internships? How and where do you hear about them? What sort of roles are they? Do you think universities should stop advertising roles that are illegal, exploit those who do them and exclude those who can’t afford to do them? Please comment below – we’d love to know your thoughts…