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Unpaid Internships are the biggest battle for graduates

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I always used to be thankful that I was not graduating in 2013. The number thirteen is traditionally unlucky and since I am currently completing an English degree, a discipline that has low enough job prospects as it is, I always felt the struggle to find employment would be hard enough without having the added burden of graduating in a year that ends in 13.

However, it seems that the class of 2013 are not going to be so unlucky after all with graduate recruitment from the top 100 organisations rising to 4.6% this year. This is the highest graduate recruitment has been in five years and includes sectors such as law and accountancy which saw a significant decline of 18% in 2009.

These figures are promising. Whilst some graduates will be lucky enough to secure one of those jobs, others will have to take the alternative route of internships. More and more graduates have started seeking internships in a bid to get their foot on the career ladder, it is particularly true for those trying to break into industries such as media and public relations. Unfortunately, such industries are notoriously difficult to break into and there are hundreds of students with a 2.1, experience in student media and a blog that are fighting for an internship.

The result is that companies have the luxury of being able to take on an intern without paying them. An intern can be working the same hours as everyone else in the company and receive no pay, or at best travel expenses. Everybody, including interns, who works is entitled to the national rate under the minimum wage legislation but the recent surge in graduates and decline in jobs means that companies can simply offer unpaid work and know that someone will agree to it.

The issue with unpaid internships is not simply that they go against the minimum wage legislation but also because it means that those who have privilege of either being able to afford to work for free or living in London (where are a lot of sought after internships are based) are getting the advantage of those from poorer backgrounds or who are not London based.

The common belief is that companies are doing interns a favour by giving them experience, but companies need interns because they will be the ones taking over the companies in the future. Things are slowly beginning to improve for graduates, but they can improve even more if both students and graduates begin to take a stand against unpaid internships and start demanding money for their time.
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