Unpaid Internships – Are Graduates Gaining Experience, or being Exploited?

A recent report published by the workers union Unite has highlighted the issue of unpaid internships within the voluntary sector breeding a culture of elitism:

The report provides a fascinating insight into unpaid internships, which is particularly relevant as it is an issue that has become prevalent in many competitive industries in recent years. The fact that it is costly to live in many cities where the majority of these jobs are based, coupled with the fact that industries including media, PR, and charities often rely on unpaid interns means it is becoming increasingly difficult to break into these markets unless you already have experience or a financial advantage.
As a new batch of fresh graduates begin their venture into the wonderful world of work this summer, many are being presented with a continuously frustrating Catch 22 situation – and it can be difficult to choose between gaining experience in their chosen field, and trying to earn enough to live on in such a tough economic climate. But on the other hand, many graduates have very little choice; especially as you can’t apply for many ‘graduate’ jobs these days without experience (but how do you gain experience without being able to find the right opportunity?! The mind boggles…)
Overall, all of this can be extremely discouraging for graduates, especially those who may have spent their time at university studying towards their dream career; only to find the opportunities they wish to pursue are out of reach simply because they are expected to work for free. For many people living in London, this is simply not a viable option, especially when you take into account the costs incurred whilst living in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Let’s hope that the report by Unite will encourage more voluntary organisations to make their opportunities more accessible to a range of graduates, and not just those who may be at more of an advantage than others.

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