Saturday, 9 April 2011

Internships and Social Mobility

I thought that slavery had been abolished in this country in 1833 so I was dismayed to hear more this week about the growing practise of businesses and organisations offering internships ostensibly on the grounds of providing experience and training to University and College leavers.

This means that the 'successful' applicants (and let's be clear here it is free will; a fundamental difference I am willing to concede to the past) are given an opportunity within industry to hone their skills by undertaking unpaid labour where often travel and subsistence costs are not met either.

In an era where we proudly point to National Minimum Wage (currently £5.93 per hour) for all workers aged 22 or over, isn't it about time that the provisions of the Act that introduced the NMW was extended to include internships?

Social mobility has made big headlines this week but it is clear to me that whilst industry has the potential to exploit youngsters, the current arrangement is also elitist since without family financial support, how many of us (at whatever age) could afford to work for no pay?  The danger is that internships will train and develop children from upper and upper-middle class backgrounds and this will make it even more challenging for working class kids to break into the establishment.

Let's end this awful practise before it becomes an even more acceptable path to employment and lets stop propping up the economy in this way.  Nobody should be allowed to undertake any work (unless truly voluntary thus covering areas such as charities etc) in the United Kingdom without at least earning £5.93 per hour.

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