According to a report by an education charity trust, it has been suggested that unpaid internship for students “favour the rich” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-29996607.
According to the trust, a six-month internship can cost the student up to £5,557, when their costs of living is taken into account, yet currently a third of students who take advantage of this career opportunity. The reports authors are therefore suggesting that the practice should be banned, arguing that every intern should at least be paid the minimum wage during this placement. In a survey of 1,700 adults nearly 73% of the respondents agreed with this stance.
The CBI counter-argued that banning unpaid internships would not only reduce the number of work-placement opportunities available for students but was also likely to have a detrimental impact on their education and future career opportunities.
However, the Department of Education states that the practice of unpaid internship may contravence employment law, and expect every work, in which they include interns, should, as indicated by the trust, receive the minimum wage.
The way forward
There are, of course, ways to avoid this issue to address the concerns that have been expressed by both parties to this debate. First, as with nursing and healthcare, education should be one of the sectors protected from national budget cuts. After all, in addition to the internship problem, if budget cuts continue the NHS will be facing an increasing shortage of nursing and other health care and administrative professions.
Secondly, it is argued that a greater degree of financial control needs to be imposed over universities, as there are ways in which their budgets could be streamlined, which in itself would reduce tution fees and other costs for students.
Finally, it is time that there was a meaningful partnership between universities and public band private sector organisations, through which higher education for students could be improved, which will serve to also improve the skills and competences that students require in preparation for their future careers.