To say that the job market is competitive at the moment is a bit of an understatement. With every graduate post receiving 52 applications and more graduates than ever in unskilled jobs, it’s a challenging and frustrating time for the thousands of graduates that came pouring out of Britain’s universities this summer.
Many graduates have turned to Jobseeker’s Allowance for support while they look for a job – which is exactly what Caitlin Reilly did.
Caitlin, a 2010 University of Birmingham geology graduate, claimed the financial support two months after she graduated while she was volunteering at a local museum, hoping it would lead to a job.
But when she made a second claim in July last year, she was told she needed to carry out six weeks of training in order not to lose her allowance. This also meant that she had to leave her work placement and abandon hopes of it leading to paid employment.
She then had to spend five hours a day, five days a week sweeping floors and stacking shelves in a Poundland store in King’s Heath with no pay – which she branded as ‘slave labour’. However, the scheme was ruled lawful by the High Court yesterday.
Unpaid internships are a hot topic – and one The Guardian is currently investigating. Performing unpaid work experience while studying is becoming increasingly normal throughout the UK. Internships look fantastic on your CV because they give you hands-on experience in the workplace and they are a great source of a plethora of transferable skills and contacts that may be able to set you up with a job in the future.
However, companies who offer work experience schemes often see students as ‘free labour’ and are happy to let students struggle under heavy workloads – without pay.
Although gaining some actual work experience is admittedly better than being sent out on the Starbucks and muffin run, unpaid labour with the wrong company can cause stress and low self-esteem rather than allowing you to reap the rewards of a good internship experience.
Have you undertaken unpaid work in the past? How confident are you that it will help you secure a graduate job?