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Over-worked, under-paid and over here

14 Dec

Even though I’m aware of unpaid internships and I appreciate the value they can add to a CV, I am still amazing, even appalled, about the way some companies are taking advantage of the situation faced by so many people.

And it’s not just big businesses that are cashing-in on the current economic climate. Even charities are banking on people’s desperation to get that first step on the employment ladder.

Gone are the days where endless photocopying and tea-making skills were honed in the office (thank goodness!)  and instead unpaid internships offer genuine ‘at the chalk-face’ experience so highly sought after by prospective employers, but at what cost?

A former classmate of mine wrote this article about the effects this very situation is having on the people of Manchester. It made for interesting reading.

My experience

Unpaid internships were brought to my attention about 18 months ago. As seasoned justanotherwannabehack readers will know, a key element of my degree course was an internship.

I naively thought (hoped) that with such experience under my belt I would find it easier than other graduates to get a job.

It didn’t happen. And after numerous voluntary roles, diploma studies and futile job searches, I’m no further down the employment path, just more qualified and a bit poorer. And working in a restaurant. But I’m not alone.  

And it’s this hunger to get into graduate employment that drives so many people to take on grossly unfair internships.

Unemployed: more people desperately seeking work experience, but at what cost?

Typical internship

Take this advert, for  an Income Generation Internship with MyBnk. It is unashamedly a six-month, full-time, unpaid internship.

It’s located in London (naturally) and states that although the internship is unpaid, travel expenses (up to £10 per day) and a lunch allowance (up to £4 per day) is provided.

This equates to a maximum of £14 in payment for a typical eight-hour working day. The national minimum wage stipulates that a worker (over 21) should receive at least £6.08 an hour  but in this instance the lucky recipient of what is being sold as “a fantastic stepping stone into a career in the charitable, education or youth work sector” will be earning the princely sum of £1.75 an hour.

Based on a 40-hour working week amounts to £70. Min wage = £243.20.

During the course of the six-month placement equals £1820 (assuming no holiday or sick leave was taken, which again I’m assuming is unpaid.) Min wage = £6323*

Which if calculated pro rata means that would equal £3640. Min wage  = £12646. (However this would need additional calculations factored in to take into consideration London weighting.)

What an absolute disgrace.

Unless you have a base in London and can afford to live off a dependent other (parents/guardians/partner) you’re buggered.

The list of key skills and responsibilities are as long as any I’ve seen for a ‘real’ job. They are succinctly described as such:

Your responsibilities will touch on all aspects of income generation at MyBnk (fundraising, local authority & government contracts, direct sales and corporate engagement).

I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds pretty much like a job as opposed to a work experience stint.

I think that at the end of the lengthy list of key skills it should read: must have access to a big pot of cash.

Financial concerns aside, I appreciate that an internship will equip someone with a very valuable skillset which may prove to be the deciding factor in getting a job in the future. However as I, along with many other young people in the UK, have found out that’s not necessarily enough.

Indeed the advert eludes to this by adding : Please note we cannot guarantee a job offer at the end of the 6 month programme.

This is not a hate campaign aimed squarely at MyBnk, it is merely an example. There are many other places that are advertising similar schemes which seem to replace paid workers with a near-constant stream of underpaid, over-grateful wannabe-workers.

What next ?

What I worry about it whether the jobs market will expand in the near future and open its doors to trainee-level applicants. Not only that, but whether companies will be willing to put their money where their mouths are and actually stump-up for its high calibre workforce in waiting. I really hope so.

Ready and waiting: the future workforce... and they want paying

For now it’s tea, crumpets (I decided to splash out), more job-hunting and Christmas shopping. Yay!

Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2012.

*Figures based on minimum wage earnings for over 21s. Six months averaged to 26 weeks.

My get up and go has got up and gone…. almost

23 Nov

So it’s just over two weeks since I’ve posted. Naughty me.

It’s been a combination of being busy combined with not having a lot to say. And as my mum has reminded me over the years, if you haven’t got anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. So I haven’t.

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to go into a sixth form college and speak to students about politics and how it applies to their lives. As a politics graduate who’s very keen to get young people enthused about, and involved in, politics it was something I was keen to do.

However there was the little matter about location. I’m in Wigan, the college is in Lincolnshire. So I had to grovel to work for a week’s holiday at the last-minute, on the proviso that I worked back-to-back shifts in the week leading up to it.

After many shifts and a three-hour trip down the motorway armed with my laptop and two plastic swords (part of a demonstration, not for crowd control purposes) I arrived in The Shire (alas no hobbit sightings) and awaited my fate.

Now I’m used to people not being that bothered about politics, thinking it either doesn’t apply to their lives or is a waste of time. But I was surprised at some students’ absolute hatred of the system and their defeatism in the face of political adversity.

Even examples of how the Arab Spring uprising shows that from small beginnings big changes can be brought about seemed to fall on deaf and disillusioned ears. The only thing they were passionate about was their disdain for the current government and a complete disengagement with the whole political process. Ok. Tough crowd.

But it was very much a day of two halves. Other students appeared to have a genuine interest in political issues and processes, and wanted to know the different ways they could make their voices heard in the hope of bringing about positive changes. Their optimism brought a tear to my eye.

However the previous groups’ cynicism must have crept into my psyche, because ever since then I’ve been a bit of a mardy chops jobs-wise. I have heard nothing back from job applications for weeks. Nothing.

All I meet is a deafening wall of silence from prospective employers which not only leaves me in the dark as to where I stand in the process, but also leaves me unsure how to improve my chances.

And although it’s great that people on my course have got interviews, and even first jobs, it’s making me question what I’m lacking.

Ah well, onwards and upwards. I’ll just take Brucie’s advice and keeeeeep writing.

Bruce in action on Strictly