Graduate Slave Labour Required

Shiv Malik is a co-author of the recently published book,  Jilted Generation: How Britain Has Bankrupted Its Youth. The book provides an account of  the struggle for many graduates under the age of thirty to find a decent job, one that will pay them enough money to be able to afford to pay rent for somewhere to live. He has brought to my attention an example of a horrific internship advertisement that has been highlighted by Tanya de Grunwald of the Graduate Fog website. Ms. de Grunwald explains:

Powerful Media – “a cutting edge media consultancy firm based in Canary Wharf”, which produces The Power List: Britain’s 100 Most Influential Black People– has publicly announced that it is seeking an internet-savvy graduate (with knowledge of InDesign) to work 10.30am – 6pm, three days a week for no salary at all. There is no mention of paying expenses and applicants must “commit to at least 11 months in the role.”….

Weirdly, Powerful Media’s ad even boasts about how much proper work the intern will be doing – for their non-existent pay packet – explaining, “This is not a paid position, but it is also not a ‘making the tea’ type role. Instead you will undertake a variety of research, editorial and PR-related tasks.”

Tanya de Grunwald did contact the company who responded that their advertisement was badly worded.  The role was “very much a training internship as opposed to a working one,” they declared. A  follow up enquiry sent yesterday was not responded to by the time of  Ms. de Grunwald’s  post today.

Many people do work experience for a week or two  for no pay. In companies I have worked at, it has been relatively standard to pay work experience candidates travel expenses and a small amount for lunch.  This work experience is not really work, indeed no work is involved and the candidates are actually trouble for the employer as they have to find “interesting” meetings for the work experience person to attend.

There are also people, good people, who carry out volunteer work for a long period of time working in the charity sector, regularly assisting the elderly or mentally or physically handicapped or carrying out other work that assists society for no pay whatsoever.

But these cases, seem very different to what seems to be advertised by the company highlighted by Tanya de Grunwald. Shiv Malik is correct that many graduates struggle to find a decent job. I have been sent speculative curricula vitæ by graduates so keen to obtain a job in the area that I work in that they offer to work for free.  My thoughts when I see such offers are that those offering their labour in such a way do not have a high opinion of their own worth and are probably poor negotiators. That does not mean to say that I would not interview such candidates but I would not be happy if they were working for no pay.

It certainly does cost money to train staff, but many companies can train staff and at least pay their employees a minimum wage. I am simply appalled.

Update: September 22 at 8:41 am

Shiv Malik, together with Tanya de Grunwald and others, has a letter in today’s Times highlighting the problem of unpaid internships. The letter is also available on Shiv’s blog. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed.