The trouble with internships

Wealthy parents are apparently buying up the best internships for their children to give them a crucial advantage in what is admittedly a desperate graduate jobs market.

Meanwhile, the idealistic graduates of New York University’s publishing summer school are about to search for their first (presumably unpaid) publishing job. Having signed up for the 6-week programme at a cost of $5,000 (plus living expenses), many would be only too happy to work for free at one of the city’s publishing houses.

But whether internships are auctioned off for charity or the result of fee-paying graduate schools, there is something seriously wrong with this picture. Internships entrench the class status of several industries – notably publishing, but also politics and the media – by excluding those who can’t afford to live without a salary.

I spent a year living on benefits while I worked unpaid for a small publisher before I got my first paid job. The experience I gained was invaluable, but financially it was the hardest year of my life.

Let’s start giving entry-level jobs in publishing to the people who deserve them, not those with the deepest pockets. And let’s pay them a living wage for their efforts while we’re at it.

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