Internships are difficult to obtain despite 43% being unpaid.

Sources suggest that, despite many being unpaid, internships are both difficult to secure and for some inaccessible. A survey of 22,000 graduates performed by Graduate prospects, between 2006 and 2010, revealed that over 70% of respondents had completed work experience of some description, generally paid casual work. The remaining participants said they had pursued voluntary work or an internship.

The financial climate at present means more and more graduates find themselves struggling to find employment, gaining experience in a relevant sector seems like an easy solution but who foots the bill? A student comments on how parents play a key role in supporting their children through a placement:

It is harder if you are state educated and have fewer contacts, but having said that people who would normally have contacts have exhausted them all. My dentist was saying the other day that his (Oxford educated) daughter is costing him a fortune doing an unpaid internship in London. He has tried to find her work, but couldn’t get anybody closer to give her a comparable internship’

Financial aid is not possible for every parent and even with a part time job, earning sufficient money to live could prove extremely difficult. The location of many popular internships being in London puts a further strain on finances proving them an unfeasible option for many, possibly hindering graduates’ opportunity to get priceless time in their chosen sector.

Another student highlights the flaws in the application process for internships:

‘Applications should be “blind” so candidates are compared fairly. All unpaid internships should be banned and all job vacancies should be advertised publicly’

Despite many being unpaid further hurdles are placed in front of candidates, as with jobs it may be a case of having the right contacts to secure a position as many opportunities go unadvertised to the general public. Applying to internships, particularly those that are unpaid,  could benefit from a structured process. As a student myself I think implementing a system similar to UCAS would be a fairer process for students.

Internships are clearly a complicated issue, particularly when many are unpaid and tend to be in environments that are costly. Local internships from SME’s would provide students with a better alternative, as even if they are unpaid students would be able to save on travel and accommodation costs.

Building up experience during university holidays is another option, which will assist students in being a stronger candidate once graduated and, if not securing them a job immediately, it will strengthen applications to paid internships.

Many students are keen to pursue internships as a way of entering their area of interest but there are clearly various difficulties in their accessibility to some people.

See also:

New best practice code for high quality internships is good news for students