Make no bones about it – starting a career these days is becoming increasingly difficult. The youth unemployment rate for 16 to 24 year olds currently stands at 14.8% and competition for jobs is high. Our last advert, for an entry-level position, produced over 50 CVs. All were from candidates with good degrees and, just like most business owners, I found myself using relevant experience as one of the key differentiating factors when deciding who to invite for interview.
So far, so anecdotal. However this observation is born out by research from the 2012 Wilson Review of business-university collaboration. They found that “lack of work experience appears as a key barrier to young people, including graduates, in securing employment”.
So if we, as business owners, are insisting on relevant work experience as a basic requirement for entry-level positions, then surely we should also be working to ensure that the opportunities for gaining this experience are open to as wide a range of candidates as possible. We all want the best people for the job, not just the ones who have been able to offer their services for free to bolster their CVs.
If we limit internships to just those who can support themselves without needing a salary, we are missing out on a wealth of talent. By paying a fair Living Wage we set a level platform, opening up opportunity to those from low and middle income families too. It means that we get the pick of the best people out there.
Also, if we expect our interns to take their role seriously, then paying a fair wage should be a minimum reward for good work. By placing a financial value on the internship we are signaling that it comes with expectations. We are not just engaged in a swap of free labour for a reference, we are investing in an individual.
In the service sector, we are only as good as the people in the business. The level we pay them reflects their value and worth to us.
Even though apprentices and interns are exempt, many of the businesses signed up to the Brighton & Hove Living Wage Campaign do pay all of their staff the Living Wage, and find that the benefits of doing so are huge. Find out more in our FAQs section.
Brighton Chamber is currently working with The University of Sussex to find businesses that would benefit from financial support to employ a Sussex student on a 10 week graduate level project. The undergraduate internship scheme is fully funded. You could receive £3100 of funding to pay a Sussex graduate (interns to receive a minimum of the UK Living Wage). Find out more and apply here.