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Graduates fear unpaid internships affect job chances

One in three (27%) graduates are worried they will lose out on roles because they can't accept poorly-paid internships

A survey from Milkround found that many saw internships as a key step to scaling the career ladder, with more than half (55%) believing that undertaking one would help them secure their job of choice.

Internships have been a controversial topic, however. Many are still unpaid, with campaigners arguing that this puts those from lower-income households at a disadvantage.

But head of marketing at Milkround Georgina Brazier said the tide is beginning to turn.

“This is clearly an area that young people are worried about, and there is a risk that graduates might be put off applying for a job if they feel they’re up against people who will work for free," she told HR magazine. "But there’s been a lot of stigma surrounding unpaid internships, meaning we’re seeing fewer companies offering them and more recognising that it’s not the fairest way of hiring people.”

Additionally, the survey found that Gen Z graduates are ambitious and have high expectations, with 65% believing they will work in their career of choice.

Brazier said she was encouraged by growth in employers offering financial support to those entering the workplace, and that it is important for HR to create awareness about the support available.

“This is partially an awareness issue," she said. "We are seeing a growing number of companies across the UK offering financial support to interns to tackle this issue, which is really encouraging. From help with accommodation to covering travel costs, this support is helping to level the playing field."

Brazier added that there are other routes into work: “We can understand why young people find internships important, with some studies showing that more than half lead to jobs. But there are other ways young people can impress employers such as through starting their own websites or blogs, or through part-time work.”

Employers also have a duty to make sure they are not placing unreasonable expectations on entry-level candidates, she said.

“I think that some organisations should definitely look into lowering their requirements. I think one of the most important things is to not ask for experience that you are not able to offer. Employers should look into training people going into entry-level roles, rather than setting unrealistic expectations of what they can do.”

Milkround surveyed 5,709 graduates between April and May 2018.