Sunday, 14 April 2013

Why Interns Need to be Paid

Last week, you may have seen in the news that Reading Football Club advertised a year long unpaid internship for a ‘first team performance analyst’. This sparked controversy amongst internship campaigning organisations as the internship was not only unpaid but did not pay travel expenses. As this internship was offered at our closest premiership club, I thought I would state RUSU’s position on unpaid internships.

RUSU believes that all workers should be paid for the job that they do. However, we do recognise that students will wish to gain experience in their desired careers to improve their chances of getting the jobs that they want on graduation. Unpaid internships inhibit students from low-income backgrounds from having a chance to get the experience that some professions require.

Students who wish to make their CVs more attractive often volunteer their time to partake in all sorts of activities. These activities include work experience but also include volunteering in the conventional sense. This is fantastic and it is often these students who get the best jobs after university. However, it is important that students get the best opportunity to get a job because they have the correct skillset for it and not because they can afford to run a car for a year and give up lots of their time for free, like Reading FC are asking students to do. It is also vitally important that whoever gets the job or internship, can afford to do it.

Intern Aware, an organisation that campaigns for an end to unpaid internships, has released statistics that show that only 25% of interns are able to make ends meet with the compensation offered for their time and that over 65% of interns rely on family members to help them financially when they are committing their time.  The harsh financial times we are in make it even harder for families to help out students when they are forced to work for little or no pay.

The London School of Economics estimates that living in London for a month will cost a young person, on average, £1,000. The average length of an internship is three months (so £3,000 in total). Therefore, if a first year undergraduate University of Reading student enters into a London-based internship this year, they would have committed themselves to:
·         £9,000 in tuition fees
·         An average of £5,400 in living costs while at University
·         £3,000 for the internship
So that is a total of £17,400. Over three years, that is £52,200! That is equivalent to approximately two weeks pay of a Reading FC footballer,but crippling to a student from a low-income background with no help or job,but with a desperate ambition to be successful in later life.

I encourage all students to get the best that they can out of their University experience and to prepare themselves for the competitive job market that they will face after graduation.

I also encourage employers to pay their interns. They provide you with valuable work, they will be more loyal to you if they know that they are appreciated for what they do and you will be helping to increase the chances of those who have been given the smallest of opportunities in life,if you pay them for their time.

If you are a student and would like to receive free financial advice, please visit the Student Advisors in the RUSU Advice, Representation and Campaigns centre (ARC) or email the advice team. Also, if you would like to find paid internships, visit the Job Shop in the RUSU building.

If you are employer and would like to advertise a paid internship in the Job Shop, please visit the Job Shop online.

James Fletcher
RUSU President

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