They are meant to give young people a taste of work, but traineeship are fast becoming a necessary, if poorly rewarded, precondition to launching their careers. Work placements are often abused as a form of cheap labour, with youngsters being given no training and little or no pay and sometimes being given simple, menial tasks like photocopying and making tea that do not make use of their skills and education. The European Parliament has now called for an end to this exploitation.
This week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released some encouraging news about the state of employment in the UK - youth employment is on the up. However, nearly a million 16-24 year olds are still left without work. For many young people, this is a desperate situation. Any length of time with little or no work is an extremely difficult cycle to break.
Internships offer a chance for a young person to demonstrate their ability and suitability to an employer over a set period of time, usually at least three months. They apply hoping that if they do well there could be a permanent job for them at the end of that period. But many of these internships are unpaid. It is estimated that 92% of arts internships and 76% of PR internships are unpaid... That is really damaging for people from less well off backgrounds when internships have become a pre-requisite for graduates looking to access some professions.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, James Caan, the Government's new Social Mobility Tsar says that parents should not help their children to get a job. Instead they should encourage kids to make their own way. The reason he gives is that when parents hold back they help their children to develop. I agree, but for a different reason.
The manner in which the government is seeking to introduce apprenticeships serves only to polarise the debate, ensuring that young people are either classified as 'apprenticeship' material, or are left to join the ranks of thousands of graduates competing for the grossly limited number of entry-level jobs.