Most Interns Engaged in Menial Tasks, Not Career-Building, UK Survey Finds

Most Interns Engaged in Menial Tasks, Not Career-Building, UK Survey Finds

Whether paid or unpaid, internships are meant to be mutually beneficial to the employers who offer them and the young people who pursue them, offering interns a leg up in the job market and valuable experiences that enhance their skills and employability. Unfortunately, a recent survey of interns in the UK finds the vast majority of them feel their internship was more of a one-sided deal, Emily Burt reports at People Management:

More than half (53 per cent) of the 18 to 30-year-olds surveyed by Lloyds Banking Group said they spent the majority of their internship completing menial tasks such as printing or photocopying documents, while more than a third (33 per cent) said the majority of their day was spent making tea or picking up lunch for colleagues. Overall, 83 per cent felt their employer was the main beneficiary.

The study also suggested that poor experiences of internships could be hurting the confidence of young people at the start of their careers. A quarter (25 per cent) of respondents said their internships had either no impact or a negative impact on their future career prospects, while only three in 10 (32 per cent) felt their internship had boosted their employability.

Internships have gotten a bad rap lately in the UK, particularly as the country has grown increasingly aware of how its entrenched, historical class divides are affecting social mobility and competition in the labor market. A bombshell report earlier this year claimed that the actual number of internships is six times the number advertised to the public, with the vast majority offered only to those with the family or school connections to know about them.

Lawmakers introduced a bill in Parliament last year that would require organizations to pay interns the minimum wage; while that legislation did not advance, pressure is increasing on the government to curb unpaid internships, which even some business groups, like the CIPD, say are bad for social mobility and prevent those from less advantaged backgrounds from succeeding in the professional job market. These unpaid roles are also much less effective at helping young people build careers: Research has shown that while paid internships improve university students’ chances of graduating with a job offer, unpaid ones do not.