Saturday, 26 November 2016 07:45

Unpaid internships. Foot on the ladder or exploitation?

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Are unpaid internships exploitation of young people or does it provide them with a foot on the career ladder?

Mpacoaching interns



The UK government recently announced proposals to ban unpaid internships, in a quest to boost social mobility.

Internships are almost a prerequisite for entrance into a range of professions, including the Law, the Creative/Media industry and for some International development roles.

Theresa May’s key pledge when she stood on Downing Street as she addressed the nation on becoming Prime Minister, was to make Britain the ‘great meritocracy’.

The proposal to ban unpaid internships seeks to make that pledge a reality for young people who to date have not been fortunate enough to benefit from the network and connections required “It’s not what you know but who you know”, to land an unpaid internship, which in essence, means that they are unable to get their foot on the career ladder.

The general consensus is that students from more privileged backgrounds have an unfair advantage when it comes to unpaid internships.  They are able to work unpaid, benefiting from financial support from their parents, unlike their less privileged counterparts who are unable receive that level of support.  As a result, the poorer students are unable to gain valuable work experience which means they are excluded from opportunities to enter their desired profession.  This hampers social mobility.

Young people in the BME group, not necessarily from low income families, may also suffer this disadvantage because they too do not have those networks and connections needed to access unpaid internships.

It is worth noting that some firms including PWC already pay their interns at least the minimum wage as they are keen to preserve their ethical values.


The end of the year is always a good time to reflect on one’s achievements and set goals for the coming year.  Students usually start to explore options in the new year so this is the time to start considering options for next Summer.

If you are an undergraduate or recent graduate, you should use this time to look into opportunities for next Summer as places get filled by the end of the Spring term.

It is always advisable to be self-aware and stay ahead of the curve.

 I would advise young people to use the holiday season as downtime as well as a time for reflection and forward planning for their career.

Please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to discuss your options.

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