Almost every kid next door has a degree these days. Even post-grad qualifications are common, making it damn difficult for employers to pick and choose. In addition to paper qualifications, they look for extra-curricular experience – a degree is no longer enough.
So we shouldn’t be surprised that the market for internships has got pretty competitive too. But here’s the shocker: you can buy an internship. The going rate? £5,000.
The BBC’s business editor, Robert Peston, wrote on Wednesday about an older person’s charity, the Second Life Centre, which auctioned off work experience placements at partner businesses to raise money. Peston quoted the organiser’s note to prospective bidders:
“You may have already organised work experience for your son or daughter, but you probably have quite a few friends who haven’t yet. I would be grateful if you could either PLACE A BID or FORWARD THIS EMAIL on to friends who have children 16 years of age or older…
“Please start the bidding at whatever level you think appropriate… Any internship can be secured immediately with a firm bid of £5,000.”
Cheap at the price?
Obviously this is likely to raise the hackles of morality sticklers (me included). It seems damned unfair that rich people can get better education and better work experience simply because they can cough up.
Of course there are many people who would argue that if you’re engaged at school, work hard and impress people, internships will be doled out for the reason they were originally invented – to help the business scout for new talent. If you offer a placement to someone who can pay for it, you never know who you might be getting. God forbid…they might even spill the tea.
As Peston points out, this perversion of the work experience system is hardly the first, and rich people have usually had the advantage anyway through the old boys’ club. He wrote:
“What she [the organiser] has shown, arguably, is that the process of allocating internships is staggeringly inefficient and unfair, reinforcing the advantages of the haves and further marginalising the have-nots.”
The irony of buying an internship is that there’s a good chance all it will teach you is how to use a photocopier. For £5,000 you could buy a photocopier. As the Atlantic writes (albeit about the US), companies are in the habit of exploiting free labour then never actually dishing out the goods. You know…like a job.
Bottom line: British political parties talk of “fairness”. Let’s see it in action.