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All work and no play but also no pay. Unpaid internships seem to be at an all time high. The pressure on graduates to not only have a solid degree mark but to also have extensive experience even before officially entering the workforce is arguably unreasonable. And this pressure is only going to increase with how competitive graduate jobs and schemes have become.

The Fair Work Ombudsman defines unpaid work experience and unpaid internships as “when a person works for a business to gain experience in a particular occupation or industry”. These arrangements are to be valuable, help transition from studies and can potentially span over a few months and lead to permanent employment. The Ombudsman outlines that the work must be “meaningful” and is at the benefit of the individual doing the placement (Fair Work Ombudsman, 2016).

While gaining experience for entering the workforce is great and always looks good on a resume how are such regulations enforced is the first issue. One case that can be highlighted of getting round such regulations for a lengthy amount of time was discovered last year. A Melbourne-based media company was putting interns on graveyard shifts for radio and they were producing radio programs which is counted under paid work. They were fined $24,000 (rightnow.org.au, 2015). Who says this issue is not happening in other places and how is it regulated?

Interns Australia is an organisation that aims to protect interns and make sure that work placements that are taken out protects their dignity and to make sure exploitation does not take place. Their logo on an elephant represents “the elephant in the room” surrounding Australian interns who are “unprotected and unrepresented” (Interns Australia, 2016). This outlines this is a very prominent issue.

Newsworthiness

Evidently from what has already been outlined this is a subject that is an on-going story for the rights of interns and making sure they are not exploited. Further issues can be seen in whether students are able to give up that much time to gain experience unpaid as some may be supporting themselves at university and have to work. There are also issues where many internships are actually taking the place of entry level work which falls under the exploitation matter.

This subject fits right in to our own masters degree community at the University of Sydney as part of the MECO masters program it is an encouraged capstone unit to take where students are required to complete 140 hours of an unpaid internship at a PR organisation, media organisation, magazine, newspaper, publishing corporation, etc.

This subject stretches globally most likely resonating with many students, soon-to-be graduates or current graduates.

Interviewees 

Matthew Ng, Deputy Director of Interns Australia

Unit Coordinator of MECO6928 to ask views on whether unpaid internships are necessary

Friend who has been undertaking various internships – TBC

My own point of view could also come into this story.

Publications

Depending on tone taken ABC News, Sydney Morning Herald.

Could also be for online publications read by students Hijacked, Russh, BuzzFeed etc.

References

https://www.fairwork.gov.au/how-we-will-help/templates-and-guides/fact-sheets/unpaid-work/unpaid-work 

http://rightnow.org.au/writing-cat/unpaid-internships-opportunity-or-exploitation/

http://www.internsaustralia.org/

http://sydney.edu.au/courses/uos/MECO6928/media-and-communication-internship

Post by: Olivia Morris

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