No, not another perky and patronising article about how great slave labour is for your CV (!). Instead, Graduate Fog shows you lots of clever way to make sure your placement works for you – not just them.
You spent thousands getting your degree – and now you have to work for free? We agree that the situation sucks – which is why this isn’t yet another perky and patronising article about how “Work experience can be a great way in to your dream industry!” (offending publications, you know who you are).
Instead, Graduate Fog answers the questions you’re totally justified in asking – and shows you how to make the experience a lot less painful. We’ve split these into ‘Why internships happen’ and ‘Make internships work for you’.
WHY INTERNSHIPS HAPPEN
‘I have a good degree yet I have to work for free – how can this be right?’
It isn’t right – it’s a scandalous situation that’s been caused by a (still unresolved) squabble between universities and employers over whose responsibility it is to make graduates ‘work-ready’- and the failure of officials to enforce your right to the National Minimum Wage (£6.31 for over-21s). The work-for-free-first culture is the result of an ongoing battle between universities and employers over who should pay for the extra bit of care that’s needed to turn a bright young graduate into a bright young first-jobber. Under our National Minimum Wage laws, most interns are entitled to the NMW (unless they’re working for a charity or non-profit organisation – which many of us think is still ethically dubious). Unfortunately, the officials are failing to enforce this law – leaving young workers to be exploited by companies all too willing to take advantage of your desperation to gain experience, which you hope will lead to paid work eventually.
It’s like this. Universities think their role is to teach students academic subjects – and it is not their responsibility to train you for the workplace. Employers say they’re getting fed up with paying ‘graduate’ salaries for candidates who have impressive academic results – but whom they spend months teaching how to behave in a professional environment. They’re also nervous about hiring graduates who have little or no experience of their industry. A graduate with experience is less of a risk than one with none.
Graduate Fog would have thought the solution was blatantly obvious – stop squabbling and work together to fix the problem. Disappointingly, it seems these people aren’t the brightest bulbs in the box. And so, in the meantime, it’s the graduates who are left to pick up the bill for this ‘in-between’ stage – at a time when you’ve never been poorer because tuition fees have never been higher.
Unpaid (or badly paid) internships are fast becoming a divisive issue between graduates and employers, especially when you (rightly) point out that not only do these placements not earn you any money, they cost you money. If your parents don’t live locally, how are you meant to pay for your accommodation and/or travel costs?
While Graduate Fog accepts this is a complicated problem, we feel one thing is clear. It should NOT be the graduates who are left plugging this gap by working for nothing for months on end. After all, we pride ourselves on living in a civilised society where nobody is expected to work for free. That’s why we have the minimum wage (£6.31 an hour if you’re over 21). Expecting graduates to be the only group in society who are expected to work for nothing is disgusting.
The current system also hugely favours graduates from more comfortable backgrounds, whose parents can afford to help them out financially. Giving them such an enormous advantage over those with less moneyed parents is similarly disgusting. The whole point of opening up university to young people from all backgrounds was to level the playing field so that everybody could have a fair chance. What went wrong?