Interns Paying For Work. This Is Just Wrong.

I don’t often write sabre rattling blog posts, there’s plenty of other places for that. Occasionally though, I come across a practice that makes my blood boil, and I just have to comment. I became aware via twitter of a company: Etsio, based out of Bristol,UK, who are charging interns up to £200 a day to get work experience. This business was featured in “The Recruiter” on the 8’th December.

The founder, Kit Sadgrove, whose other business interests include on-line learning and diet food for dogs, is quoted as saying; ”

“There is absolutely pent-up demand from people willing to pay an employer for work experience.”

“It is incredibly cheap if you see it as training, considering you are sitting next to a business owner and learning their secrets.”

And referring to the recruitment sector as an example, Sadgrove added: “There are a lot of people who want to get into recruitment but they have no experience, so who is going to take them on? This opens up the opportunities for them, and in return the recruitment agency gets some money.”

Sadgrove added: “If people are keen enough to do this they will go out and flip burgers in order to get the money [they need].”

Now this might be bluster, but if there are this many young people (with over 1mn out of work), willing to pay to work, then it really is a sad state of affairs. Sad that people feel the need to pay, and even sadder that the likes of Sadgrove are charging.

Tanya De Grunwald, the intern champion at Graduate Fog blogged about this, questioning the legality of the scheme. Sadgrove states that these positions are not internships, and as they are free to come and go as they please, their not employees, and as such subject to national minimum wage. He titles them Assisterns!

Sadgrove answered some of the criticisms on the blog reiterating the point that the graduates were paying for training. As such they weren’t providing an agency service, and were providing an essential service to those who needed experience were getting an essential service. They would be “shadowing” and not working. This makes them a training company rather than a recruitment business, which would make this practice illegal. The jobs on the web site however list plenty of duties and look every bit like jobs to me.

I think this is just wrong. They may be able to wriggle around the law (and it is a may), but it’s wrong and shouldn’t happen. No business should be exploiting desperate unemployed graduates for gain. I’ve even started a petition to make this point. If you agree with me, please sign it!


The Recruiter


Graduate Fog

My Petition

4 comments on “Interns Paying For Work. This Is Just Wrong.

  1. Here, here Bill.

    Awful practice. It reminds me of a suspect company that has space in my building here. They attract a lot of interest from out of work people, mostly young foreigners whose first language isn’t english, by telling them they are coming for an interview. Once in the building, they turn the “interview” in to a hard sell on training, and charge over £1000 for a simple ECDL course.

    They’re called Tekworx and from the info I can find online have changed their name, and office location a fair few times.

    They’ve even gone as far as to buy up domain names such as http://tekworxscam.co.uk/ so that any negative comments on the company is buried in the google search pages.

    But it’s not impossible to find a forum with dissatisfied customers – http://whocallsme.com/Phone-Number.aspx/02074487703

    It wreaks of underhand boiler room tactics, but I’m unsure what can be done to stop them?

    • Bill, you may be interested in the discussion titled ‘Interns – what is the minimum they need to be paid or can we set them up as volunteers? Also, any suggested agreements clauses that are recommended’ on the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand (HRINZ) group on LinkedIn. I put up a link on there to your post and left this follow up comment:

      ‘OK, just playing devil’s advocate. Students pay fees to gain a qualification. Could interns pay employers to gain valuable work experience? This may lead to a situation of more internship opportunities, creating a valuable career start for many young people. Would a young professional be willing to pay for an internship with a highly sort after employer? I’m sure many people would pay for an opportunity to experience working at a place like Google or Facebook – and that experience would be highly desirable on their CV or could lead to a more permanent role. Legal and perceived ethical considerations aside, the gain may far outweigh the cost. This could even garner the financial support of many parents.’

      • Paul,
        The key is in the last line: “support of their parents.” That determines experience is only open to those who can afford it. The jobs these people are being asked to do are relatively unskilled. I can’t see the training element. There are no notable outcomes. Training is a very different proposition. It is exploiting the desperate.

  2. […] of the wedge and feel very strongly that our industry needs to make a stand against such practices. Bill Boorman has set up a petition here and I hope that if you feel as strongly as I do about this you’ll sign […]

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