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The number of unpaid interns utilised as entry-level staff—minus the pay—has been on the rise in recent years, and media coverage of these unethical and legally questionable arrangements has been growing exponentially, says the Intern Justice (IJ) (http://internjustice.com/) organisation in the USA.
The experiences they describe are increasingly mirrored in the UK. IJ adds: "Internships have long been a right of passage for both the college student and recent graduate. Traditionally, these populations have actively sought out mentor-driven opportunities related to their target profession, or company, with the understanding that they will receive a valuable learning experience, priming them for a climb up the hiring ladder. In today’s world, employers are tightening their budgets and downsizing full-time staff, and, as such, internships have replaced what were once entry-level jobs, but with caveats—a lack of compensation, and ethics."
"This new style of unpaid internship is often of little practical benefit to the intern, amounting to what some have termed 'slave labour', but of great assistance to the employer."
In fact, an increasing number of higher education institutions in Scotland and other parts of these islands are refusing to advertise unpaid placements and internships, because of concerns about their 'no fee' nature and other issues of fairness.
So are employers changing their attitudes towards offering internships? Are graduates are putting long term ambition over immediate wages in a credible way?
Moreover, how are organisations ensuring that graduates are not being exploited and that their free labour will actually lead to properly renumerated employment? And how is the internship world being monitored in terms of policy, law and equal opportunities?
These are hot issues, and the conversation from 6-7.30pm in the hall at St John's Church (corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road) on Friday 16th August, will attempt to cover all the angles. The cost for the session is £5.
The speakers at this event are Dr Martha Caddell (Third Sector Internships Scotland and Open University in Scotland), Joy Lewis (Adopt an Intern), and Juliette Burton (Mace and Burton).
Just Festival, also known simply as Just, runs from 2-26 August 2013. It is based at St John's Church (corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road) and some 27 other venues, and combines artistic and performance style events with conversations, talks, films, exhibits and other ways of exploring how to live together creatively in a mixed-belief society.
* Full details and booking: http://tinyurl.com/o2mr35l
* Ekklesia is a sponsor of Just Festival. Our news, reporting and comment is aggregated at: www.ekklesia.co.uk/justfestival
© Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia and a media adviser for Just Festival.Tweet