Study reveals truth about internships

Almost half of employers (48%) who offer internships report offering unpaid placements according to The Sutton Trust study.

The report – Pay As You Go – says that 39% of graduates in their twenties have done an internship, including half (46%) of young graduates under 24. Of those graduates who have completed an internship, over a quarter (27%) of them did so with no pay.

Media and the arts internships (fashion, theatre, tv, journalism etc.) are the most underpaid, with up to 86% on offer unpaid.

Only 31% of working-class graduates had taken an internship compared to 43% of middle-class graduates. The report found that middle class graduates were more likely to be funded by parents, have savings or use personal connections to obtain internships.

In comparison, those from working-class backgrounds were more likely to work a paid job to support themselves whilst they undertook their internship.

The report found that completing an internship was associated with higher salaries, for both middle-class and working-class graduates.

The Voice of London spoke to University of Westminster fashion student, Megumi Keogh, 21, who has worked multiple unpaid internships in her field.

“I have previously interned for a seamstress, London Fashion Week, Stylists, and University of Westminster Fashion week debut, all unpaid. At London Fashion week, all that was provided was lunch. I would leave my house at 5am and only get back at 1am the next morning. That was four days in a row of over 16 hours per day with no compensation.”

She said that the main ways for her to find internships were through friends of friends, or directly contacting companies to ask them if they have something available.

“Because they were all unpaid, I only choose to do internships that are for short periods of time (maximum one week) as I can’t afford to take more than a week off from my paid job. I definitely can’t afford to do full time internships.”

She told us that most fashion internships require you to work “9-5, five days a week, for at least three months, unpaid.” She said “That is literally impossible for me to do as I’m relying on my part-time job and student loan to live off.”

She also told us “Without doing internships you can’t compete with everyone else. They are needed to get a job in the fashion industry, they’re expected of you.”

The report comes on the same day as a bill to ban unpaid internships that are over four weeks long is brought to the House of Commons.

The bill aims to see all internships that exceed a month to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage of £7.05 for 21-24 year olds, but pushes for an ideal pay of the Living Wage of £9 per hour (£10.55 in London).

The Founder of The Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, Sir Peter Lampl, said:

“Unpaid internships prevent young people from low and moderate-income backgrounds from accessing careers in some of the most desirable sectors such as journalism, fashion, the arts and law.”

“The legal grey area around internships allow employers to offer unpaid internships with impunity. That is why the law should be changed”.

Featured image: Pixabay

Words: Adam Kirkman | Subbing: Laureta Doci


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