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A third of businesses admit to exploiting interns

While an internship is an excellent opportunity, a recent study has suggested that interns could be exploited by the company they work for.

In an increasingly competitive working world, students frequently have to gain more experience to give them an edge when applying for jobs.

Internships are a popular way to gain experience in the relevant sector; they are a good opportunity to experience first-hand the demands of a job and to discover which aspects of a job you enjoy, helping students to better shape ideas surrounding future careers.

The study, carried out by serviced office provider Business Environment, revealed that 31.6 per cent of workers feel that interns are treated unfairly by companies.

In addition, 21.6 per cent of companies offer no pay at all to interns, and less than half of companies (40.3 per cent) pay interns minimum wage or above; many companies simply cover travel costs.

It can be argued that the reason for doing an internship is not for money, but for the invaluable experience gained.

Jack Rollinson, a third year Politics and Economic student at the University, undertook several unpaid internships over summer and said: “I feel that the skills and experiences I gained there were definitely worth it, I now have a lot more relevant experience on my CV and feel that I could prove to an employer that I am genuinely interested in the work. I have also gained several contacts and people happy to give me a reference.”

However, it was also indicated in the results that employers themselves do not necessarily value internships as much as people expect. One in seven employers don’t give their interns work that they would undertake if they actually had the job they are seeking. Furthermore, 33.7 per cent of employers give interns work described as ‘menial’.

David Saul, CEO of Business Environment, said: “Internships can be rewarding and useful experiences for both the intern and the company – but a significant minority of placements are used as cheap labour, providing little experience or benefit to the jobseeker.”

He added: “It’s important for companies to change their processes with or without legislation. We need to recognise that internships are a two-way deal – an extra pair of hands for the company, in return for a useful experience and preferably some kind of compensation for the jobseeker.”

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