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or sectors can afford this – which is where a government support
scheme may help to increase internship opportunities.
Interns gain benefit through the opportunity to ‘audition’ for
a job through experience, relationship management skills, better
contacts and sometimes university credits. However, it would be
misleading to suggest that industry experience automatically leads
to increased employability. Evidence from the National Association
of Colleges and Employers’ 2015 Guide to Compensation for
Interns & Co-ops suggests paid interns have no better chance at
landing job offers than those who did no internship. In fact, it
reveals that unpaid interns averaged a lower salary in their first
paid job than students who had not performed an internship.
Exploitation occurs if interns are given demeaning or menial
work that does not provide them with the experience they are
promised, and if they are not afforded respect or dignity that
others are presented with in the workplace.
Exploitation can also occur if paid internships are only available
to those who already have access to opportunity. This ‘elite’ may
have contacts who give them wider access to paid internships.
Fair and transparent internship placement is necessary to achieve
equable distribution of social and economic advantage. We must
counteract any risk of perpetuating nepotism.
If the disadvantaged are forced to take internships of a lower pay
scale, then social exploitation is at play.
Social exploitation can also occur for those seeking internships
as a career transition or who may have social responsibilities. If
unpaid work or low paid work is disguised as ‘internships’ by
organisations due to cost constraint, or if individuals are pressured
to seek this kind of arrangement through desperation, we risk
either exploiting others or being exploited ourselves.
A strong work ethic has always been worthy of praise, and it
does not necessarily correlate that work and high pay is the right
formula for success. Meaning, purpose, dignity and respect will
continue to motivate many to do good work regardless of money.
If we ensu re those key principles are in place, then there will be
great value in the continued practice of internships.
A system that provides fair opportunity for all without the risk
of exploitation should not be criticised, but applauded.
The HR profession has a strong role to play to ensure that
integrity is upheld, and for internship programs, the line that
divides them from exploitation is not crossed.
THE GOVERNMENT’S PRE-ELECTION BUDGET
announced over $840 million for a new program to get people
under the age of 25 into jobs through “pre-employment skills
training” and internships.
Interns working up to 25 hours per week would receive an
extra $200 per fortnight on top of existing welfare payments.
Businesses taking on those interns would receive a $1000 bonus
and eligibility for a youth bonus wage subsidy, up to $10,000.
As many as 30,000 interns a year could be involved.
Industry bodies welcomed the move, but one union labelled it
as a “$4-per-hour jobs for young people” scheme. A social media
Exploitation through the underpayment of wages, such as the
7-Eleven scandal, along with poor treatment of employees has
become media worthy. And internships have not escaped notice
with the former operator of a collapsed Melbourne marketing
company being fined $17,500 this year for exploiting interns.
There is nothing intrinsically unethical about internships,
assuming certain conditions are met, with the key underlying
principle that the intern providing work gains some benefit.
So what are the real benefits?
Organisations benefit from the opportunity to assess and access
potential new talent. However, internship programs can also cost
employers in terms of effort and resources. Not all organisations
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“EXPLOITATION OCCURS IF
INTERNS ARE GIVEN DEMEANING
OR MENIAL WORK THAT DOES
NOT PROVIDE THEM WITH THE
EXPERIENCE THEY ARE PROMISED.”
16/06/2016 12:47 pm
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