Letter to The Times
Yesterday (22 Sept), The Times published a letter from a number of groups arguing that all unpaid internships are exploitative. Today they kindly published Inspiring Interns’ response, the content of which can be read below:
Sir,Â While the work Alex Try, Rosy Rickett et al are doing to protect young workers is to be commended, their understanding of internships is a very narrow one (“Business must pay interns to work”, letter, Sept 22). As in all walks of life, there are a number of unscrupulous companies willing to take advantage of an imperfect system. However there are equally hundreds (if not thousands) of businesses, often exciting young SMEs, creating opportunities through internships where graduates can gain valuable experience, discover more about a particular career, and frequently earn themselves a full-time job.
The employment market is flooded with perfectly able young people who lack the requisite experience to land their first job in highly competitive circumstances. Internships ensure that there continues to be a flow of opportunities for graduates. It is appropriate for employers to cover out-of-pocket expenses for interns, but if companies were forced to pay minimum wage the small tasks that interns do (which are normally of genuine didactic value) would be redistributed among existing staff and any recruitment of university leavers would be closed.
I accept that more needs to be done to ensure internships are open to people from all backgrounds, and urge the Government to look at the recommendations made in the Milburn report Fair Access to the Professions. The suggestion, however, that all unpaid internships are exploitative and immoral is short-sighted and damaging.