Money v.s Life Experience

Minimum wage

Internships: they’re becoming the trendy next-step for graduates, and are a proven success in getting young people onto the career ladder.  But as Julia Margo pointed out in her Sunday Times article, there’s one sure-fire way to ruin them, and it all comes down to money.

In terms of internships, it’s impossible to escape the wage debate – it is dominating all media interest on internships, diverting all attention away from the benefits of these invaluable work experiences.  People are forgetting why internships are there in the first place, what the actual concept means.  It is not a graduate job, nor is it a minimum-wage, bottom-of-the-company-tea-maker position.  It is an experience, a taster of what working-life is really like, an insight into a company.  Internships are not designed for graduates to make a quick buck and then move on to something else.  Their value lies within the experience they provide, which is what many school-leavers and graduates need before they plunge themselves head-first into a job about which they know very little.

The suggestion that all companies pay their interns the National Minimum Wage would entirely undermine the concept of what they stand for – work experience.  Clearly in some cases it is appropriate that the intern receives some level of remuneration.  However, if all internships paid the same amount as entry-level jobs, then why would a company hire an inexperienced intern over an experienced worker?  The intern may be talented and contribute to the company, but then again he or she may be totally unsuited to the role.  Why take the risk when there are plenty of capable potential employees waiting to be given the thumbs up for an entry level job?  Moreover, if internships cost more, then companies and businesses, who already invest a lot of staff time into running these placement programmes, simply won’t be willing to shell out huge amounts of money to run them.  Internships will be harder to come by, and young people will be in an even tougher position when they are looking to enter the job market.

The perception of internships needs to revert back to what it used to be – people should focus on the reasons for why internships occurred in the first place: for the experience, not the pay packet.