There was a post at LGM a few days ago raging against unpaid internships, and although I’d like to get paid for doing internship work, I don’t think they’re the worst ideas. I’ve worked internships that paid $15/hour and ones that didn’t pay at all. Obviously, no one wants to work at an unpaid internship where they’re just fetching coffee. Two of the internships I’ve worked, which were both unpaid, weren’t in the PR industry, but I did PR type work on social media, editing internal company copy, writing blog posts, etc. It helped build my portfolio and I found it worthwhile.
All that said, this is complete, utter insanity. From the Guardian:
Under the government’s work experience programme young jobseekers are exempted from national minimum wage laws for up to eight weeks and are being offered placements in Tesco, Poundland, Argos, Sainsbury’s and a multitude of other big-name businesses.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says that if jobseekers “express an interest” in an offer of work experience they must continue to work without pay, after a one-week cooling-off period or face having their benefits docked.
Young people have told the Guardian that they are doing up to 30 hours a week of unpaid labour and have to be available from 9am to 10pm.
They aren’t being unpaid to learn career skills or gain valuable experience. They’re being unpaid to stock shelves. Atrios puts it well:
I’m not against a well-designed makework program for the unemployed with reasonable compensation. In fact, I wish we had a massive well-designed makework program for the unemployed with reasonable compensation. But this is just giving free labor to companies, and in a way which doesn’t leave people with much time to look for real jobs.