Some of you may know that my youngest sister worked as an unpaid intern, she also had her weekend job and was traveling to her internship Monday to Thursday. Eventually the journey and lack of rest began to take its toll and she left after 2 months. The company were aware of her weekend job and were impressed she had lasted 2 months as they thought she would have left much sooner.
The company gave £10 a day towards expenses, this didn’t cover travel costs for any of the interns whom my sister worked with if anything my sister was one of the lucky ones as she also had a paying job.
One of the things she noticed was with the exception of 3 people the rest of the team was made up of unpaid interns. This company offered unpaid internships all year round and seems the majority of the workforce was made up of interns.
As it so happens whilst browsing the internship boards my sister came across this same company were advertising a number of vacancies, all the interns my sister had at one point worked with had also left.
How this company chose to run their business is up to them the question is, is this fair to those interns? It seems to be this company’s practice to hire unpaid interns who would then leave but then replace them with another round of unpaid interns. The company offered positions from PR to seamstress and in their eyes would be imparting invaluable experience to their interns who they noted went onto successful careers after graduation. But looking at it from a business point of view the company had ticking over workforce whom they didn’t paid a wage to, reducing their own costs whilst still making and retaining much of their profits.
From what my sister had said about this internship the work itself was ok and the people she worked with were nice and like the other interns she was aware it was unpaid but were also aware how important it is to gain work experience. In their mind the pros of this unpaid internship outweighed the cons.
There are companies that do take advantage of ‘free labour’ under the guise of an unpaid internships, fortunately in this instance my sister wasn’t a victim of this.
My sister has said if she needs to she would apply for an unpaid internship again. I know the need for experience is invaluable but does that even compare to the ‘free labour’ companies receive in return? There is no guarantee an internship will transfer into a permanent role or if the internship will provide the type of experience needed to get on that work ladder.
The debate of unpaid vs paid internships will continue until the employment rates for graduates improves, meaning companies taking a chance on someone who doesn’t have the experience yet but have the potential to be the employee who tick all the boxes.