Paying for internships?


The subject of work experience or internships is becoming a hot potato. The Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg have clashed over the subject and several newspapers have pondered the ethics of companies which offer unpaid work experience.

There are two main bones of contention. The first is that nepotism is rife when it comes to interns and that all the plum work experience slots are offered to friends and family of the boss or existing employees. It is easy to see how frustrating this might be for suitably qualified or motivated people denied an entry into a work sector because all the work experience is being funnelled towards those who already have connections to the firm in question.

On the other hand, many businesses prefer to recruit from and give work experience to people they already know and trust. An approach which has obvious benefits.

The other big, vexed question is whether or not internships should be paid. Many commentators think it is immoral not to pay people for the work they do. Many employers point out that providing work experience can often be a drain on their resources which produces no tangible benefits.


The BBC News website has flagged up a new factor to be taken into account: the auction of internships to the highest bidder. Fund-raising company Charity Buzz auctions high profile internships with the bid money going to help young women from disadvantaged backgrounds. An internship with Jay-Z’s record company Roc Nation recently went for $5000. Previously an American phenomenon, Charity Buzz are said to be expanding into the UK market.

What do Vistage members think about work experience? Is it a useful way of discovering new staff or a pointless exercise in finding something harmless for the intern to do? Should internships be paid or should internships be auctioned off to the highest bidder? Is giving work experience to friends and family nepotistic or simply good business sense?

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