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This terrible news story prompted me to write something I’ve been musing over for a good while now:

Moritz Erhardt

Moritz Erhardt

http://investing.businessweek.com/research/markets/news/article.asp?docKey=600-201308201355UPI_____TOPUTRAK_134351_1224-1

A 21 year old man, working a seven week internship and, reportedly, through the night on a regular basis, was found dead in his flat in Bethnal Green.

A lot has been written about internships and, as a small business owner, I also see it from a different point of view. Employing staff is a huge step for small businesses so an internship can seem like a great way to get someone on board while giving them valuable experience in a sector they would like to work in and building their CV.

But the dark side to internships has been highlighted by the news that students are working their backsides off, with little or no pay, and to the detriment of their health. This, in itself, is a reason to sit up and think about industries who rely on internships and the effect it has on those involved. However, I also want to look at it from the flip side – from the point of view of those who can’t afford to do internships. And I would think they are the majority.

Before beginning by teacher training programme, I worked voluntarily at a local school for 3 weeks. I’d given up my retail job to get into education and, yes, gaining that experience did ensure I got on the placement. But, financially it was really, really hard. Tutoring bolstered my income a little but for others who don’t have that experience behind them, I can’t see how anyone from a modest background or without parental support can afford to do it.

So who’s missing out? Well, very obviously those students who come out of university or college with zero funds, parents who can’t afford to support them, or those who choose to change their careers later in life. But also, aren’t those companies missing out? Let’s try to remember that this is the era where everyone should have the SAME opportunity. University has become accessible to children from all different backgrounds, thanks to a scheme that puts off paying back that inevitable loan until you’re around 50 or earning over a certain amount (which equates to about £45k straight from Uni). Yet, work experience still seems to be ONLY accessible to those who can afford to work for months or maybe years without pay. Look at the highest earners in organisations such as the bank Mortiz Erdhart interned at and, I’m pretty sure you’ll find most come from privileged backgrounds. This leads to a workforce similar to those insults we hear thrown at the Tory government on a daily basis. Elitism shouldn’t exist in the 21st century and 21 year olds certainly shouldn’t be dying to continue this mess.

 

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