GAIN EXPERIENCE AT THE BBC, TED BAKER OR OXFAM – BUT ONLY IF YOUR PARENTS CAN MATCH THE OFFER
ANOTHER GRADUATE FOG EXCLUSIVE!
* WOW! OUR STORY PICKED UP BY THE GUARDIAN, INDEPENDENT, DAILY MAIL, EXPRESS, BUZZFEED, DAZED, RADIO 4’S TODAY PROGRAMME AND MORE! *
Middle class parents are going online to trade valuable internships in sought-after professions so their children can benefit from CV-enhancing placements in each other’s workplaces, Graduate Fog can exclusively reveal.
New website myInternSwap lists opportunities within the BBC, ITV, Ted Baker and Oxfam, a “diplomat embassy” and in the civil service. Also on offer are shadowing placements with a church minister, a criminal barrister and a “judge specialising in family law”.
The team behind myInternSwap contacted Graduate Fog last week, requesting that we promote the website to our readers. But when we investigated, something didn’t feel right.
Here’s how it works. Parents – or other family members or friends – list an internship they can offer and the kind of work experience they would like to find for their child. They search the listings and make swap offers to members whose requests fit best with their offer. If they find a swap they’re happy with, the parties exchange contact information and arrange dates, length, pay and other details. Internships can be “any length” and those taking them up must be 16 or over. There is no upper age limit.
What about money? Paying for internships is a big no-no on myInternSwap – parents can only trade something they have for something they want. It’s free to post an internship, but anyone wishing to swap will have to pay a £24 annual membership fee.
As for whether the interns are paid, the website states, “This is entirely at the discretion of members and students.” A link is supplied to the government’s guidelines on the minimum wage law, but the fact that internships involving real work must be paid at least the minimum wage is not made clear.
The issue of fair access is addressed – sort of. Far from entrenching inequality, the team behind the website insist that it anyone who can’t afford the annual fee can access the website “through schools and other organisations (and even to individuals) who feel that the cost would be a barrier for their community.” Parents not in a position to offer a placement for trading needn’t despair. They are told:
“The internship doesn’t have to be at your own place of work, but could be through friends or family. At your own workplace, you can ask those responsible to see whether they would agree for you to have an intern at work.”
When Graduate Fog emailed myInternSwap raising our concerns about the ethics of the website and whether those without well-connected parents in good professions will be unfairly advantaged, the website’s founder Nick Simmons insisted we had got the wrong end of the stick, saying this:
But Graduate Fog is not convinced. MyInternSwap may look cute, but we believe that facilitating these informal swaps will in fact entrench privilege and lock poorer students out of valuable placements which are now considered a pre-requisite for a career in the most competitive professions. As this website’s founder Tanya de Grunwald told the Guardian:
“This website seems harmless as it’s only digitising a practice that’s been happening for years, and parents will always want to do the best for their children by giving them a leg-up on the career ladder.
“But it’s vital we see the big picture. In today’s tough job market, work experience is a valuable commodity so the best placements must be accessible to young people from all backgrounds. MyInternSwap is a neat idea with a cute name – but it effectively encourages parents in managerial roles in desirable professions to trade CV-enhancing career opportunities amongst each other, locking out those from less privileged backgrounds.
“What about the children of those with nothing to trade, because they’re unemployed, unable to work or not senior enough to create such placements? They will be penalised because of their parents’ circumstances, even if they are brighter and more hard-working than the kids of those in the professions. This will put them at a disadvantage right from the very start of their career.
We believe the launch of this website has performed one service, however – by highlighting the fact that work experience is a broken bridge between education and the world of work. We should not have a situation where parents are left scrabbling around like this. Schools, colleges, universities must partner with workplaces to create a formal, organised work experience system where placements are fairly allocated to young people from all backgrounds. Valuable opportunities must be accessible to everyone, not just those whose parents have the contacts.
*SHOULD MYINTERNSWAP BE SHUT DOWN?
Will this website help democratise the way that valuable work placements are distributed among young people? Or will it make it even harder for those from poorer backgrounds to break into the most competitive professions? Have your say below…
Don’t forget to follow @GraduateFog on Twitter!