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Interns Exploited : An Unforgettable Meeting

I am not one for sharing negative articles however I am hoping some positive can come out of this experience I am going to share.

My first week back from the holidays and I am so excited for 2017, personally and professionally. We are currently in the process of re-branding, launching a new site and expanding our service offering. A busy yet great start to the year.

However my happiness was taken away on my very first day back. I had arranged to see a construction company in Melbourne for a site visit. This company was eager to take on some interns and as we cover insurance, it’s important we visit every site to ensure it’s a safe working environment for our students.

Upon my arrival, the company looked professional. It was an office/warehouse. Separated from the warehouse was the main office. I went in directly to the office section and it appeared the company was very professional and the office manager also was lovely. Things started to take a turn when I asked the manager about interns. The manager told me that they have significant experience with interns as they about 12 interns working with them at present. After some questions, I was shocked to find out that company has had interns who have worked for there from 12months to 2 years, without pay. Learning this I was shocked and appalled. My efforts to advise on FairWork legislations and standards was ignored. I asked the manager where the interns were as the office only had a couple of people. The manager then took me downstairs to the warehouse and right at the back, where there were two rows of desks with interns working away. Now Monday was about 30 degrees in Melbourne and the office had air-conditioning, but not the warehouse. I could see the interns were overworked and very stressed. The temperature in the warehouse was too hot to bear. Some were even moving heavy stock that looked unsafe. The manager told me that the interns help with all the office administration, conduct sales calls, process payments and load the delivery trucks when required. These interns are all accounting graduates.

I have spoken to FairWork Australia and have reported the incident. With the graduate recruitment market so tough, limitations of hiring international students and lack of experience required for graduate positions, more and more students are desperate to gain experience from local companies in return for a reference and solid experience over a longer period.

The sad reality is that the internships industry is a tricky space and one that can cause a lot of controversy. It makes it harder for the organisations out there delivering internships the right way. It’s important that companies are educated on the difference protocols surrounding unpaid work, voluntarily work and internships.

On a positive note, the company will be investigated. And I am even more thankful for those companies that truly value and take the time to train our young graduates entering in the job market.

Fainaaz Ali
Director of Careers


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