In the last ten or so years, internships have boomed in Australia – perhaps following the example set in America where young people routinely work for free to make themselves more employable.
Back home, internships have certainly become commonplace, and with good reason. Why not take advantage of free labour if it’s on offer? The catch is that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and there are numerous legal considerations to take into account.
INTERNSHIPS: A POTENTIAL MINEFIELD FOR EMPLOYERS
THE LEGAL REQUIREMENTS OF UNPAID WORK
FAIR WORK CRACKDOWN ON UNPAID WORK AND INTERNSHIPS
In last week’s budget announcement, the federal government officiated internships as an official strategy to assist with youth unemployment.
For the record, there are around 120,000 people in the 17-24 age bracket who are currently on income support.
The new deal offered by government is that young people who have been looking for work for at least six months become eligible to apply for a four-12 week internship with registered employers, as part of a $840.3 million Youth Jobs PaTH (Prepare, Trial, Hire) program.
The program includes six weeks of training and a 15 to 25 hour work week. In return, the interns receive an additional $200 per fortnight to their existing benefit.
In return for this act of ‘goodwill’, businesses receive a $1,000 bonus, and the potential to receive an additional Youth Bonus wage subsidy of between $6,500 and $10,000.
But how did we get to a state of play where employers need to be cajoled into giving young workers a leg up?
Small businesses in particular have the opportunity to capitalise on taking on apprentices and inexperienced workers. Even though SMEs are traditionally more time-poor, spending the time to create a plan on how to get the most out of an internship can be the difference between making it worthwhile, or a total waste.
Far from being a burden, interns can lighten the load and be a help, not a hindrance when it comes to completing all of your tasks. They can take time away from your day, but if you invest the time wisely, you will both gain from it.
Ultimately, new measures like the Youth Jobs PaTH program will only be effective if employers give serious consideration to offering ongoing, meaningful work at the end of the internship