Students from low income backgrounds struggle to find internships, surveys say

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Work experience and internships are becoming increasingly difficult to access for students with limited incomes, research shows.

London, the desired destination for many Newcastle students to gain industrial insight, has had its living costs rise to over £1000 a month, a recent study found. Economic influences and inflation are putting increased pressure students from less affluent backgrounds as a month-long placement in the capital now can cost upwards of £1019. A little bit closer to home, rent and bills in Jesmond cost around £500 monthly, proving a more viable option. Whilst this is a cheaper alternative, students miss-out on top employers by not locating themselves in the heart of the British tertiary sector.

The Sutton Trust, an education charity which aims to “address educational disadvantage”, expressed concern that “significant costs” attributed to unpaid work were prohibiting the less-advantaged student population from gaining the necessary skills to be successful post-graduation.

Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl stated that nearly four out of ten young students who had carried out internships were unpaid. Lampl spoke upon a matter of change, “All internships (that run) over four weeks should be paid at least the minimum wage of £7.50 per hour.” A staggering amount in comparison to minimum wage for 18-20-year-olds of £5.90 an hour. Lampl furthers this: “All internship positions should be advertised publicly. Large numbers of internships are never advertised and instead offered through informal networks. This practice locks out young people without connections.”

“Also, the process by which potential candidates are selected for internships should uphold the same standards of recruitment as for other jobs.”

“Failure to do so prevents young people from low and moderate-income backgrounds from accessing jobs in some of the most desirable sectors such as journalism, fashion, the arts and politics.”

On websites such as Indeed, there are thousands of high-end firms offering unpaid experience, such as RMC media, Global Voices ltd and Le Salon, in which there is no wage and only some firms offer expense reimbursement. Many argue that students are being exploited as these experiences are vital for CV building and can put those who cannot afford them in an increasingly difficult position when it comes to graduate job hunting.

Second year Newcastle University student Archie, who is seeking experience in the banking sector, said students were being “placed under too much stress to take the non-paid options, as only the very top firms where applications are highly competitive seem to be offering a suitable wage.”

“I know many fellow students who have been running deep into their overdrafts to secure these internships, and this only puts us in a harder situation when we come back to our university studies with financial difficulties as an even more pressing issue.”

Last modified: 24th October 2018

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