Unpaid internships as an alternative to Graduate Schemes

Recruitment firms are emphasising the importance of direct experience to the job role being more essential than the educational background of a job-seeker. This is something that I myself was shocked to realise when after numerous consultations with specialists regarding my curriculum vitae, I saw the impressive education section of my CV move from the top to practically the bottom in an attempt to persuade employers to give me an interview.

Multiply this level of alarm by three hundred percent and include the current rate of unemployment to students who are currently paying over and above £9,000 a year for education and realise the situation that a lot of young educated people are confronted with in the UK. Graduate schemes are a great way of making the smooth transition between University and a career, however the truth is that a lot of young people even after choosing their degree discipline are unable to imagine what job they will be in after University life. The experience of University brings you into contact with so many varying scenarios and avenues of information that it may be only after you have got you teeth stuck into your degree or even later that students come to realise which profession may suit them.

By this time it may be too late to gain direct experience from summer internships, University groups and company networking opportunities to be considered a good fit for a graduate scheme applicant.

The fact is that the average graduate job attracts 73 applications and more for a fixed scheme leading to around only 10% of post-grads being able to secure such a position. So in the current job market where firms are demanding direct experience from applicants to deter any incurred training costs and make sure they ‘have the right man for the job’ how are the vast majority of graduates able to showcase their talent?

In amongst the multitude of job sites online that seem to be recruiting solely for recruitment jobs, there are opportunities to utilise growing small to medium businesses that can offer highly beneficial experience to graduates.

Two interns have just partaken in short-term unpaid internship schemes in PR and marketing for an online waste collection specialist based in Bristol. Schemes such as this can offer the intern unprecedented flexibility in a position whereby there is no real job role and it is up to the intern themselves to create their own job. Direct experience and involvement at top level decisions because of interactions with owners is a lot more likely in these circumstances as is seen at Collect and Recycle. One intern Emily Stone explained why she made this choice after graduating
“I chose an unpaid internship because it offered the most valuable industry experience without the pressure of meeting lots of deadlines. It was a more flexible choice and I think focusses more about the ‘journey’ and what valuable knowledge you can gain from it. Instead of just a 9-5 job for money where you learn a specific set of skills and do it the same everyday.”

Small to medium businesses may be able to utilise the competition in the job marketplace by offering these types of internships. Of course whenever an unpaid avenue is chosen the ethics will have to be seriously considered and providing as much experience as possible to the intern is a vital component of a productive relationship. The mutual benefits of providing an opportunity are vast and should seriously be considered before unpaid internships are mocked by Human Resource Managers. There a literally thousands of graduates desperate for experience in their desired field of work who would jump at the opportunity of an internship scheme, especially in a society where it is becoming more acceptable to align with more niche and forward thinking companies.