Guest Post by Roslyn Tam
The youth in the UK have been facing an all-too-familiar problem in recent months: a growing struggle to find jobs. The lion’s share of UK firms, especially the large firms that provide many of the hiring placements that the nation needs, are looking for experienced workers who already come in with certain skills. While those creating policy in educational leadership doctoral programs can improve upon the material students are presented with, more will be required of these kids. Students and youth entering the workforce rarely have enough on the job experience to qualify for these positions, leading to intense competition for the few entry-level position available to all.
There is an answer to this youth employment crunch: it’s called internship. However, internships have not been a traditional approach to position preparedness in the UK. While the Parliament is well-known for its current internship programs in a wide number of fields, private firms have been slower to catch. Surprisingly, many international businesses have learned internship techniques from other nations and carried their techniques to Britain as they expand or return with new ideas. One such example is Infosys, a global company that partnered with the National Apprenticeship Scheme in 2012. Ideally, the National Apprenticeship Scheme will continue to partner with major companies and increase the number of apprenticeships and internships.
The students, youth and returning workers who qualify for UK internships may not be so quick to participate, even in the face of unemployment. After all, internships get a bad rap in many ways. They are considered to be stressful work with little reward – low wages, lack of respect and dismal working conditions, among other negative issues that keep some applicants away. UK businesses are attempting to change this stigma by offering greater benefits for internships and similar programs.
One such benefit is increased wages. A 2010 survey found that 63 percent of employers had begun to pay their interns at least national minimum wage, and in fact most of that 63 percent (92 percent of them) paid interns higher than minimum wage voluntarily. Moves like these are slowly convincing youth that they will be respected in internships. Indeed, organizations such as the Trades Union Congress and National Union of Students have been pushing for required minimum wage payment for all UK interns to encourage the trend. The long term benefits remain the same, including a chance to develop useful business connection, gain more experience and earn higher wages more rapidly.
New Trends in Internships
Young people are not the only ones to focus on internships these days. The average age of internship applicants is on the rise in the UK, and a large number of them are 25 years old or older. The trend makes sense. These workers, faced with unemployment themselves, are interested in increasing their own job wage and opening the door to companies they would not be able to enter otherwise. They also tend to have families or debt, leading to a greater focus on paid internship and even more competition, thus creating a sharp divide in UK programs where the paid jobs are in incredibly high demand while unpaid internships are impractical for all but recent graduates or hopeful students. The “work for life” model has been broken, but many firms have been proven slow to realize it.
I’d be interested to know more about your experiences of internship programmes, either as a provider or as an internee. Please comment.