Unpaid internships are one of the big issues that students and graduates alike face. According to research, 26% of interns have done three or more placements with 39% of internships lasting around 3 months on average. It is estimated that overall, 100,000 young people will undertake an unpaid internship, but do the benefits of completing an unpaid internship outweigh the negative aspects?

Are there positives?

The first thing that you can get out of any internship, whether it is paid or not, is quite simply the experience you gain. This is extremely valuable, especially in this current economic climate. Above all, this experience results in one of two things: knowing that is the career path you want to go down or knowing it isn't. Either way, you can learn what your potential next step will take you but still gaining valuable skills that employers are forever seeking.

You also gain connections that you wouldn't have gained otherwise. This can be particularly useful for the future, even if it is not the sector you want to get into. Increasing your connections is important, especially in this ever socially connected world. Naturally, this will all help with your CV, especially when it comes to tailoring applications by demonstrating certain competencies and skills.

Unpaid internships will always be there. Therefore getting these experiences and gaining the benefits is very easy to obtain and so can be an alternative to internships or programmes that are harder to get into.

The downside

Students undertaking unpaid internships need to be careful that they simply are not being exploited. If for instance, there is no structured programme with the intention of developing your skill sets or for creating a good learning experience, then this should raise alarm bells. It is also said that doing these unpaid internships creates an unfair advantage to those that are not able to support themselves financially. Quite often, these interns will have the help of their parents in order to support them through the duration, but should this be allowed?
The law is also pretty clear when it comes to unpaid internships but it is not being enforced, yet the public are not fully aware of this.

Overall, yes internships in general are an excellent way in gaining first hand experience in a sector that interests you or helping to making those hard career decisions. However, unpaid internships will always be a matter of debate and students should be more aware of both the benefits and the down sides to undertaking such internships. Have you completed an unpaid internship? Comment below and let us know what your thoughts are!