Friday, May 27, 2011

Why pay when you can get qualified people to work for free?

Reading that a third of the government’s Graduate Talent Pool’s internships are unpaid, I can’t help but not feeling surprised. Like this bit:

But there have been criticisms over how internships can be misused as unpaid labour by some employers - and warnings about the need for them to comply with the minimum-wage regulations.

This was essentially the major flaw in the radio training that I did a few years ago.

One and a half years of study, then a six month internship and at least 70% of the class would be guaranteed a job in the commercial radio industry after graduation. That 70% was the purpose of the qualified professional training programme (Kvalificerad Yrkesutbildning, KY), and programmes with lower employment rates wouldn’t be allowed to continue.

Or at least that’s what we were told as we applied.

Once we started, we quickly learned that there was no money in the business in Sweden and the commercial radio stations – our future employers – were in fact in no position whatsoever to give us any jobs. They had always been broke, even from the start, and it didn’t look as if it was going to change anytime soon.

We did have that six month internship, though …

Which, in effect, meant that the commercial radio stations around Sweden had qualified people working for them for six months a year without them having to spend a penny on salaries. After that time, they weren’t obliged to keep any of us on, unless of course they’d be worse off without us. Then six months business as usual, and then there would be the next batch of fresh-faced and well-trained radio enthusiasts working for nothing, hoping that maybe, just maybe, they’d made enough of an impression to have a job offer at the end of it.

I was in the seventh year of this educational programme. The year before us were apparently surprised the school advertised for new students (i.e. us), we were surprised when they advertised for our successors … and of course, so were the next lot. I don’t know how many years they managed to churn out qualified radio students to false hope and unemployment in the end, but last I heard about it was that they had cancelled the programme.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved doing the education and I loved working with radio. My six month internship was done with a local radio station to where my parents were, who wouldn’t have the money to keep me on anyway. Not that I held my hopes up, but as it turned out, it allowed me to meet with the man I fell in love with and ended up marrying. So all’s well that ends well.

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