Graduate Internships - they're certainly popular amongst employers but are they a genuinely good thing for graduates?

This is a question that has been the basis of many broadsheet opinion columns over the past few years. On either side there are compelling arguments, firstly we'll look at the more transparent opinion of the two, the anti-internship argument.

I call this the more 'transparent' of the two arguments not because it is necessarily any less superior or sound than its opposer but because it is obvious why some people do oppose the notion of internships - companies are receiving work hours from people for free. Which, as certain journalists of certain left leaning papers would argue, is pretty much the definition of "slave labour".

But is it really? Surely a fundamental quality of slave labour that these people are overlooking is that of being forced to work against one's will. A quality which is non-existent in internships because the respective student or graduate could walk out the door whenever they please.

However, the issue still remains as to whether it is ethically correct for a company to gain labour for nothing. Many of the top companies offer no compensation whatsoever on food or travel (and for some that includes travel taking place during work hours to actually do the job!) These companies can manage this because of their status - if you are applying for an internship position at a top FTSE 100 company and turn it down on the basis that you feel they being unfair to you in terms of pay and expenses then they will care little because there will be someone right behind you who will be more than willing to meet their demands.

Naturally, the counter-argument is that students and graduates may have to pay out a little more than they would like but the internship only lasts a few weeks (or months) and it is invaluable experience which will land you a graduate job later down the line with a higher salary. Of course, this last point is not always the case but the point is you are buying experience that will be highly beneficial to you in the future. It is well known that the best thing to have on a CV is relevant work experience and with an internship that's precisely what you are getting. So companies shouldn't have to pay out for giving people these opportunities, should they?

Maybe this is one of those situations that is being treated with a black-and-white attitude when the option of a certain shade of grey would be the most sensible. Laws could be imposed that made sure that expenses were paid for people on placements and work experience but only essentials such as travel during working hours and some lunch money.

What do you think, are internships slave labour or platforms that graduates and students should be thankful for?