Deputy Prime Minister Leader Nick Clegg has announced a deal with 115 businesses and other organisations to improve internship conditions and open up work experience for those from a less privileged background.
Major firms including BAE Systems, Ernst & Young and Marks & Spencers have agreed to a “business compact” that obliges businesses to pay interns a wage or expenses.
Work experience opportunities will also have to be formally advertised, either in schools or online, rather than through “informal contacts”.
The Liberal Democrat leader said “By opening their doors to young people from all walks of life, this marks the start of a culture shift among major employers, driven by the belief that ability and drive should trump connections and privilege.”
Last Wednesday the Wessex Scene reported that research suggested that those with work experience, or who had previously worked at a company, were taking over a third of graduate jobs.
But the voluntary scheme means employers have agreed to make access to internships “open and transparent”, as well as ensure a form of remuneration for the work done. Some internships currently offer no reimbursement, but Mr. Clegg’s announcement means either at the very least expenses will be covered or accommodation offered.
However, campaigner for fair access to internships Ben Lyons, of Intern Aware, said “Employers don’t need an opt-in scheme to have a legal duty to pay their interns.”
“A few pounds a day in expenses is not enough for anyone to live on without huge support from the bank of mum and dad. If Nick Clegg is truly committed to social mobility he will make sure that Revenue and Customs enforces the minimum wage for interns.”