Most graduates happy to take on unpaid internships, even with no job guarantee

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The debate over the moralities and even legalities of unpaid internships has been ongoing for quite some time. A study carried out by Business Environment recently reported that a third of businesses in the UK are exploiting interns. Following this, Savoo.co.uk, the voucher code and money saving site, researched how many newly graduated students would be willing to work unpaid in order to gain experience and compete in today’s market.

1505 graduates were surveyed and asked if they would be willing to work in an unpaid internship to gain experience. An astonishing 85% said that they would, with 65% saying that they would do so even if there was no job guarantee at the end. Only 15% said that they would never work unpaid.

A recent grad from the University of Manchester said the following: “So many people have a degree now, so gaining experience can be the only thing to distinguish you from others. And if you won’t work for free for a few months, there will be others that will!”

Another commented: “I don’t actually agree with them. It’s unfair as there are some people who don’t have the financial support from elsewhere to be able to work for free, and they are basically exploitation. But I have, however, had to work in an unpaid job. I was struggling to find employment, even a very low skilled job, when I have good A level grades and a 2.1 degree.“

Savoo also asked which field the grads were looking to get in to, and there was an interesting disparity between different sectors.

Those that were looking to get into advertising/marketing were the most likely to take up an unpaid internship (92%), followed closely by those looking to get into the fashion industry (90%). The sector that people would least likely be prepared to do an unpaid internship was the finance sector (55%). And most of the finance respondents also admitted that they would only take up an unpaid internship with a job guarantee at the end (75%).

Ed Fleming, Head of PR and Partnerships at Savoo commented: “Even with a university degree, work experience is still so important, and to get a foot in the door it seems that the majority of graduates will do whatever it takes. Although many companies will offer to pay for expenses such as travel and lunch, it is often still way below the minimum wage. It can be very difficult for recent grads to make ends meet after university ”

Savoo is soon to launch its first paid graduate internship in September.

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  1. The headline’s misleading as the content of the article showed. Graduates AREN’T happy to take on unpaid internships, they do them reluctantly to get a start in some super-competitive industries (eg fashion and advertising).

    It’s fortunate that HRMC are now beginning to investigate these sectors to see whether companies are failing to meet their obligations to pay at least the National Minimum Wage to all their workers. Many graduates doing unpaid internships are actually doing menial work for which they have a legal right to be paid.

    I’d like to ask graduates contemplating careers where unpaid internships are the way in to think again about their career intentions.

    One unpaid internship is often more likely to lead to another unpaid internship than a paid graduate job.

    Sectors which start with the exploitation of new graduates usually don’t offer secure employment prospects later on. There’s no fun in trying to pay inescapable bills when earnings are intermittent.

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