The New Kid Pty Ltd is a career site that helps young Australians snag a great PAID internship.
Our vision is to be the go-to career site for young Australians.
We don’t have a
Mission Statement – we have 3 core purposes:
1. To shift the culture of internships in Australia from exploitative to exceptional
2. To make it easier for young Australians to transition into the workforce
3. To reduce Australia’s youth unemployment and youth underemployment rate
In 2013, I juggled an Honours degree, four unpaid internships and two casual jobs. The surprising part? This scenario isn’t surprising or unique in the slightest way. My experience at each of these internships varied immensely, from exploitative to invaluable. At one organisation, I was clearly an employee without the benefits or payment. I was amongst a number of other unpaid interns who were also being exploited by producing and performing productive work for the company. I gained no industry experience or insight, no new skills or contacts, and I was given an off-putting introduction to the industry that resulted in bitter resentment. The internship ended and I quietly left without saying a word. I didn’t seek assistance or advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). I didn’t know that the role I had just undertaken was illegal, I didn’t know I had any rights and I didn’t think I could stand up to these industry giants. However, above all, I didn’t want to burn any bridges in the field I was so desperately trying to gain access to.
Shortly after this experience, I began interning at a different company and was immediately welcomed on board and treated as an equal. We sat down and discussed what I would like to learn and gain from my time at the organisation and how the experience could be of greatest benefit to me before agreeing on a short time period that would be flexible enough to accommodate my university and work schedule as well as their workload. Every week the two Directors (who have now become great friends) would take the time to teach me the skills I wanted to learn. At networking events they would go out of their way to introduce me to industry contacts, always with a flattering introduction. I was gaining hands-on experience, but I was in no way being penalised in times that I couldn’t deliver.
After completing a four-year University degree and four internships (not to mention the endless list of casual jobs I’d churned through since I began working when I was 13), I felt capable, confident, and was excited and ready to find a full-time job. However, I was then faced with a different issue surrounding internships – they had replaced entry-level jobs. The advertisements I came across on job boards were either for unpaid internships, or mid to senior level positions that I could not possibly yet qualify or compete for.
After identifying that unpaid work in Australia warranted their attention, the FWO commissioned Adelaide University Law School Professors Andrew Stewart and Rosemary Owens to conduct research and deliver a report, Experience or Exploitation? The Nature, Prevalence and Regulation of Unpaid Work Experience, Internships and Trial Periods in Australia.
One of the key conclusions that Stewart and Owens stated in this report was that ‘there is reason to suspect that a growing number of businesses are choosing to engage unpaid interns to perform work that might otherwise be done by paid employees.’ While I advocate trying to get a foot in the door, it’s time we put our foot down too. While many businesses are providing legitimate, legal, and valuable unpaid internship experiences, the reality is that too many are abusing the system and taking advantage of eager young people by using them as a cheap substitute for paid employees. We should not be a source of free labour. We need to take a stand against exploitation and counteract this growing trend by taking action. Raising awareness is helping, but not solving the issue. The FWO has done an impressive amount to educate young people and businesses, but talking is not enough. The window for young people undertaking internships is short and by the time they are aware of their lawful rights, it’s too late – the damage has been done. In the words of a famous fellow creative: a little less conversation, a little more action please.
There needs to be an internship intervention. Conditions need to be imposed to counteract the growing trend of illegal, unpaid internships in Australia – that’s where me and The New Kid come in.
Why Paid Internships only?
Young people are vulnerable and the serious social issues of equity and access surrounding unpaid internships cannot be ignored. The bottom line is that regardless of how legal, beneficial, or short-term unpaid internships may be, many young people simply cannot afford to work for free. Unfortunately, this sees them excluded, without options and behind the eight ball even before they’ve graduated. I am fully aware that I was extremely lucky to have been able to live at home in Sydney with supportive parents who had food on the table for me every night while I studied and undertook unpaid internships, however this is not the reality for everyone.
Some companies are doing the right thing without recognition, some are blatantly taking advantage and capitalising on the exploitation of interns, and some are just completely unaware of the facts. Some young people are undertaking brilliant legal internships, some know they are being exploited but don’t know what to do about it, and some are just completely unaware of the facts. This is the convoluted reality of the situation.
I strongly believe there is an undeniable correlation between youth underemployment/unemployment and the rise in illegal, exploitative internships that are replacing entry-level positions for young people in Australia.
Lets put an end to this growing trend and make a proactive commitment towards helping The New Kids.
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