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1 in 4 UK Graduates Have Done Unpaid Internships – Here’s Why You Don’t Need To Be One Of Them

30 Nov 2018

With new research revealing that 1 in 4 graduates have done unpaid internships, we thought it a good time to give you some top tips for getting great work experience at university – whilst still earning money!

Unpaid Internships

But first, let’s get the latest stats…

The new research was carried out by YouGov on behalf of educational charity The Sutton Trust, an organisation dedicated to improving social mobility and educational disadvantage.

Their survey showed that 27 per cent of graduates in the UK have carried out an internship for which they received no pay, with many students being forced to rely on handouts from friends and relatives in order to get some essential work experience.

Over a quarter of unpaid interns have juggled their hours in order to fund an internship by finding a part time job to make ends meet.

The Sutton Trust study revealed that of 100,000 internships on offer each year in the UK, more than half (58 per cent) were unpaid opportunities. In highly competitive sectors like the arts and media, the statistics were even more bleak, with almost 9 in 10 internships being unpaid positions.

Also uncovered by the research was the fact that both employers and graduates alike were unsure of the law surrounding internships with regards to remuneration. Nationals Minimum Wage laws state that interns who work on set tasks or have set hours must be paid by their employer.

However, the Sutton Trust research revealed that exactly half of employers admitted to being familiar with that part of the legislation. Graduates were slightly better informed on the laws surrounding unpaid internships but there were still around 1 in 3 graduates who didn’t know that they were fully entitled to pay if they are doing internships where they are expected to carry out set tasks or work set hours.

Commenting on the latest findings, a research fellow at the Sutton Trust, Rebecca Montacute, said:

“Our research shows the sheer volume of unpaid internships. And it’s not just in the creative industries, it’s reasonably high across all areas of work. As it stands, the responsibility lies with interns to call out unpaid work. But in lots of the industries, interns are keen to get contacts to support them in their careers, and are afraid of speaking out about not being paid.”

“Some of this is about complacency, but our polling showed that there’s a lot of genuine confusion over the rules. There still hasn’t been any prosecutions for not paying interns the minimum wage, so for some employers, the incentive isn’t there.”

“There needs to be more clarity for interns to know their rights. Employers also need to understand that if they are not paying interns, they’re shutting out a pool of talented people, and potentially putting them off returning to the organisation later on,” added Ms Montacute.

So how can you make sure you get top drawer work experience without giving up all of your time and effort for free?

Well, the best way is to do either a paid summer internship in your penultimate year or a first year internship while you are studying because they can lead to graduate job offers before you’ve even graduated.

There are plenty of paid internships out there – but the tricky part is finding them and knowing when the application deadlines are.

For example, there are lots of summer internship programmes which are open for applications now, but, perhaps surprisingly, many of them close before Christmas.

For example, IBM, Tesco, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, BNP Paribas and Morgan Stanley all have summer internships on offer next year, but all of them have application deadlines closing in December.

Many students miss out on these opportunities because they assume that they only need to apply a couple of months in advance, so they don’t even think about applications until February or March – and that’s simply too late for many of the internships offered by large corporates.

For example, PwC have a graduate internship job live at the moment – and, yes, it’s a paid opportunity. It starts in August 2019 BUT the deadline for applications is the end of December 2018. So, if you want to apply for that role then you had better make your application quick snap!

To prevent you from missing out on a whole range of paid internship opportunities, we have added a deadline date calendar so you can get a snapshot of which internships you need to apply for when.

Good luck! And let us know how you get on in the comments below…

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