Editor’s Argument: Ché – To all of our interests, interns must be paid.

The recently announced Labour plans to ensure internships lasting longer than 4 weeks must be paid received little airtime, however they are a concrete step towards increasing social mobility in the UK and should be known by young people as such thinks our editor Che Applewhaite

Unpaid internships are quite good for business but not for students, and the Labour party seems to understand this. Rather than the paltry Conservative policies that have hit the young, the most important being extra debt accrued via the astronomic rise in university tuition fees, the Labour party is taking a measured approach to cleaning the stain on this country – low social mobility – that Conservative policies have only exacerbated.

Apprenticeships were introduced by the Conservatives to get young people into work. An apprenticeship provides job-specific training and qualifications but not to undergraduate degree level – sucks for anyone wanting to have transferable skills or earning in a higher wage bracket.Most internships require degrees, but cover a wider range of professions and provide paths to better-paying careers where more than a third taken result in employment. For some jobs, like investment banking which pays new graduates the highest at £45,000 per annum, previous experience almost a prerequisite to being hired. However, the average unpaid internship lasts three months. Who aged 18 and out of school, or 21/22 and out of university, can afford that? Without parental help of course…

A main cause of the rise of unpaid internships was the recession of 2008-2009, where companies could not have afforded to take on any paid internships, or provide and jobs for graduates. We are in 2015 now, the worst has passed and business are milking us. Such was the news on TV recently that there have never been more trainee and internship positions. I recently went to a careers day at London’s major art and antiquities institution, the Victoria and Albert Museum, where panellists of young people forging inroads in the creative industries expressed resentment at, what they described, as ‘cultural exploitation’ of the young who are eager – often with the best ideas – and will take anything they can get to a foot onto the career ladder. Also, free work means interns are often given the worst work.

Buena Vista Pictures / Via trippinalfredo.tumblr.com
Unpaid interns aren’t even made to feel part of the office. (Buena Vista Pictures / Via )

I think it wrong that interns working longer than a month are not paid anything for their efforts. While I was researching for work experience to take on later this year, I found some programmes, particularly those in the creative industries, that didn’t even have a set time period within which an unpaid internship would occur. The intern in the Independent’s case study was given more responsibilities, but without an increase in pay. How does that work?
Put simply, it doesn’t. It doesn’t for the less well-off students who simply cannot afford to work full-time for free for months on end. It doesn’t for those young with children who want to work their way towards a well-paying job to take care of their family.

As internships are proven to lead to employment, the government should be using and reforming the schemes that already work. Also, these are young demographics the Government should be targeting most to get into work. The youth unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds is 16.6%  – it dampens social mobility in this country if not many young are in work to improve their situations.

At the current state, it is impossible for most students from poorer parentage to access work into their chosen industry, because with a £36,000+ debt on their minds, job security and paying the huge loan back would be the first priorities. Not unpaid internships which might not necessarily lead to a job.

Those who manage to take the unpaid placements are of wealthier backgrounds – their parents/extremely supportive other relatives can afford to pay for their expenses while their employers don’t. One month living in any UK city, particularly in London where most internships are offered, could possibly be covered by savings but any more time and it would be nigh on impossible straight out of university to be able to afford such expense.

The Labour party’s plans are also reasonable to business, because it is not a total abolition which would hike costs for small as well as large businesses. Pay will ensure employers care for the intern’s experience, obligated with an incentive to train rather than exploit.

Young voters in the UK need to use their votes if they want anything to change for their job prospects, because unlike the staid Conservatives who ruined us with excess debt and made it harder for poorer people to be educated, Labour is providing a way for all to work on an even playing field to achieve the careers they want.


Why not try….

Intern Magazine
‘A new, bi-annual independent print publication concerned with internships in the creative industries.’

About Che Applewhaite
Che Applewhaite is the Editor-in-Chief of Whippersnapper. He is a 18-year-old student who is passionate about understanding the issues today that he thinks will affect the future, primarily changes in international relations, feminism and global warming. His musical tastes are defined by a deep appreciation of jazz, minimalism, house and rap, though by no means are limited to those genres. He can often be found in a museum or bookshop on a weekend.