Unpaid internships damage graduate pay prospects


A study by Essex University has found that those choosing NOT to undertake an unpaid internship and go straight into employment after graduation are more likely to earn more in the long term.

The findings of the first survey of its kind concludes that almost every graduate completing an unpaid internship will be worse off than other graduates after three years – on average by £2,000 less per year.

Those from more disadvantaged backgrounds were worse off than counterparts who went straight to work by more than £4,000.

Showing that working for free leads to salary disadvantage, the study looked into the career trajectories of tens of thousands of students over a six year period.

The study’s leader, Dr Angus Holford, concluded that graduates expecting that an internship would put them on the best path for career success would be disappointed.

He reasons that the earning disparity could be due in one way to graduates delaying the start of their careers by taking an internship in an entirely different occupation from the one in which they did their work placement.

This is borne out by 38% of graduates who took an internship reporting it as an opportunity to explore the type of work involved.

In terms of career potential, the study also found that those taking internships were 15% less likely to go into professional or managerial roles, and they were 8.8% less likely to be satisfied in their career.

Conducted by Essex University’s Institute for Social Research, the study reveals former interns pay a salary penalty of £3,500 in comparison to those who went straight for paid work, and a penalty of £1,500 compared to those who went into further study.

To further compound the issue, those unpaid interns who were privately schooled or had professionals as parents were also worse off, on average earning £2,000 less.

The study also highlighted that graduates from advantaged backgrounds were more likely to secure the most attractive internships. While those from disadvantage were more often compelled by limited job offers to take unpaid work.

Dr Angus explains “I expect some people will find an internship that enables them to do the job they really want to do and that will have the big labour-market return but, on average, an internship you take won’t lead directly to a job in the profession you really wanted or the profession you did the internship in.”

“If you are not able to find a job straight away, you’ve missed the graduate intake, that boat has sailed and you are left behind. If you take a while to get promoted you might be a little bit behind. Or you might get side-tracked into a different career trajectory.”

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

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