Undo

#52: If you could un-invent something, what would it be? Discuss why, potential repercussions, or a possible alternative.

After giving it lots of thought, I’ve decided that I’d undo unpaid internships. After having done one myself for over a year, I now realise – even though short term ones can be incredibly useful – just how wrong they are. These work experience placements have had a lot of coverage in the news recently due to new laws being discussed, which will hopefully prevent situations similar to mine. Don’t get me wrong, I did learn a heck of a lot over that year and am very grateful that the organisation gave me such a sought after opportunity even though I didn’t have qualifications in that industry, but without realising it, after 5-6 months of the internship I was effectively “doing a job” with set duties and hours, so by law was entitled to minimum wage. Not knowing any different combined with the strong desire to stay a part of the team, I kept schtum through fear of losing this privilege. I guess it’s that age-old, never-ending, vicious circle – the fact that you can’t get a job without relevant experience, yet no-one seems to be willing to give you your first work experience placement, especially if you don’t have another job to support yourself financially.

My solution would be to only offer work experience placements for a maximum of two weeks and unless they are purely shadowing and not doing tasks for the company, then they must be paid minimum wage. I know that times are tough at the moment but they’re tough on everyone. If the company needs work to be done then they need to be prepared to pay for it to be done, otherwise the project should be dropped entirely. There’s a thin line between right and wrong when it comes to this, so why risk it?

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