Adviser on the Edge

careers in island communities: research, theory and practice

The end of unpaid internships? Good news for rural students and graduates.

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Today I heard that some Universities are banning the advertising of unpaid internships.

This is welcome news to me. In recent years the existence of unpaid internships has been the focus of more and more media coverage and has been commented on widely by careers professionals. The ubiquity of internships in some career areas is particularly controversial with career routes in some areas very difficult to access without having one or more unpaid internships under your belt. The controversy centres around the fact that that access to some careers may be becoming limited to those who can afford it, and this reduces mobility and diversity in the workplace.

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Costs of accomodation for students or graduates who need to move to urban areas to access internships or other opportunities may be significant.
Image courtesy of Keattikorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For me, the issue of unpaid internships is even more acute because of the issue of rurality – a dimension often overlooked by other commentators. Where unpaid internships are problematic for any student whose family is unable to support them the issue may be even more acute for rural students. This is because for students from urban areas, even if their family is unable to actually support them financially, they may at least be able to provide them with a place to live (the family home) at minimal or no cost. For students from rural areas who are significantly distanced from urban areas staying at home may not be an option – meaning not only do they have to cover living costs but also the cost of accomodation which can be prohibitive.

Universities refusing to advertise unpaid internships may not solve the problem – I imagine they are likely to continue to be advertised elsewhere. In addition even if there is a move towards providing at least minimum wage in internships, low wages may still negatively impact on rural students who are less able to remain in the family home (and have lower accomodation costs) than urban students. However it is, at least, a step in the right direction…

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