Work experience or work exploitation?

A common theme in the experiences featured on this website is the tension between offering opportunities to young people and exploiting them.

The University of Westminster has waded into this debate, by publishing a survey showing the vast majority of university students in London feel exploited during their work experience placements.  

The headline figures are striking.

  • 71% of students said they felt unfulfilled by their work experience placements. Common tasks cited were filing, scanning, photocopying, answering telephones, and making tea.
  • 60% of those interviewed said that their work experience was not beneficial in any way. 
  • 90% of those surveyed had worked for free, and of those, 77% were not compensated for their expenses.

Hardly indicative of a system that equips young people with the experience needed to get jobs in a recession.  One student commented, “I have done several placements, all have been unpaid. Of these placements, two promised to reimburse my expenses- one took 2 months to fulfil this and the other never returned my calls after promising £5 per day for my full-time placement.”

Despite the fact that this was probably in clear breach of the NMW regulations, tardiness in paying meager expenses is terrible. Even if you work for free, you deserve to be treated with respect.

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Interns Anonymous

We want this website to be a forum for interns to share their experiences and discuss the ethics of unpaid employment. Most importantly, we want this site to be a place where YOU can tell us your story.

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