Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Internships and the future of jobs

Last week’s Economist’s special report on ‘The Future of Jobs outlined the some realities about the changing world of work, unemployment and the skills required to survive within it. One of the pieces sub-titled ‘Employers are getting free workers, interns are getting a free education’, written in response to concerns about graduates working for next to nothing, raises questions about the value of internships.

With global unemployment at an all time high 7.9 percent in the UK and over 9 percent in the US, internships are a must for most graduates.  On top of this the price of a university degree is set to become more expensive, forcing many students to reconsider the university route into work. Choosing to becoming a serial intern would be one way of avoiding those huge fees and securing a job. In light of these facts, are graduate interns really working for next to nothing?

Based on experience I would say on the face of it quite often they are when you factor in the cost of living in London and if you don’t have parents with deep pockets and connections to support you through the internship the pay most interns receive is not enough to survive on.

However what is often over-looked by those who say graduates are working for next to nothing is that, “they are getting a free education, something a few universities provide these days” as the writer of the piece argues. A workplace education gained through an internship give students the chance to gain knowledge of the world of work and develop a broad range of skills which they might not have gained during their time in academia. This is not to say an academic education has no value.

Having interned within organisations such as the Demos, BBC and more recently Pearson what I have discovered, is that internships can serve as important building blocks, helping to cultivate the soft and practical workplace skills employers need graduates to have. The Pearson internship gave me the opportunity to experience different parts of the business whilst learning on the job.

The Benjamin Franklyn maxim “Tell me and I forget show me and I remember, involve me and I understand” should be applied to Internships. By involving students in the culture of the workplace helps develop a better understanding of the skills they need for future of jobs.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Where's the UK Jobs Plan

The cacophony surrounding Sir John Vickers report commissioned by the Coalition government seems to be drowning out more important long term questions over how we grow our economy or how the recommendations of the report fits into wider narratives about job creation, high unemployment and the creation of a vibrant workforce capable of competing  in the global economy. Of course I understand that if we have banks with higher capital ratios in relation to what they lend and the separation of high street banking from investment banking operations banks are more likely to be on a much sounder footing.

As bankers, economists and our Chancellor now acknowledge the world economy, the UK included needs a get out of jail card to avert another crisis. The US President responded with a Jobs Plan in Congress setting out in clear detail a series of policy measures which he hopes the Republicans will pass. In view of such bold measures to revive and re-build the US economy the question we need to ask our politicians is where is the UK’s Jobs plan for growth?

Are enterprise zones the way out or is it a combination of quantitative easing, fiscal policy, and the building institutions which support entrepreneurialism the answer, as suggested by Will Hutton of the Work Foundation in Monday evenings Newsnight analysis of the Vickers report.

As researcher at the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning currently reviewing existing literature on enterprise education and entrepreneurship it is clear that a fair amount has been written on the subject. In the absence of government support and leadership in this area the Centre through its research findings and recommendations will aim to inform current thinking on how enterprise education and entrepreneurship properly embedded within our education system could be harnessed to drive the UK economy at time when clarity is needed on a way forward.