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Internships have become a necessary evil in order to weather the storms of the job market. We’ve all taken the time to wince over the slim picking of listings that at best, boast “travel expenses covered.” Even now, the idea of a bus fare home is a luxury. The lucky ones work full time hours for piecemeal pay, while others suffer for free in the hope that a day, week, month, or even a year later they will be given the semblance of the salary that they are worth.
Although many would argue that any professional at the top of their game has had to undergo sacrifices to clinch the job of their dreams, aspiring candidates are in the worst position on record. Aside from verging on the brink of a triple dip recession and a 7.5% national unemployment rate — in comparison to pre-recession statistics which detail a 4.9% figure — aspiring interns are fighting a competitive financial battle. The average university graduate has to consider relocating city, finding accommodation and funding travel and living costs on top of dealing with their negligible employment status. Moreover, the law does not cover the internship grey zone. Although it is declared illegal if interns are not paid at least minimum wage if their duties are undertaken over “an extensive period of time”, more than 1000 companies are still being investigated for breaking the law through the use of unpaid interns—including the government itself.
Naturally, these conditions lend themselves to the financially gifted classes. Wealth is a powerful guarantee of being able to meet placement terms and conditions. A rich candidate for a job can tap into parental contacts for internship opportunities, will be more likely to be able to relocate for a specific position, and will have enough parental support to be able to weather a lengthy full-time placement without needing any concessions from their employer. In consequence, two candidates of the same calibre can enter a heady class war, in which money talks, and always wins. The same cycle continues generation after generation, as the same niche of the population have the chance to exploit the opportunities that their money gives them to remain in the same elite upper class sect of society that they always have, and probably always will.
When considering these injustices alone, the ground shifts from uneven to mountainous at Westminster school. The private boarding school, based in central London, is for the crème de la crème of high society. Attending the school on a “day” basis costs a staggering £7,236 per term. Undeniably private education has perks that the state school system will never be able to afford to offer, but the blatant advocacy of purchasing internships is enough to stun a graduate from any background.
Now with their own online auction site, the school offers its pupils the chance to purchase high-end internships, which as of yesterday, boasted opportunities with Imperial College’s Biomedical science department (£381), Mary Portas’s communications team (£300), a fashion internship with Amanda Wakely (£500) and a mini-pupillage for £701. Imperial College may have since got in touch with their conscience and withdrawn their opportunity, but the other companies, amongst many others, have not yet reached their final days of bidding. Some may also recollect that Mary Portas is currently trying to promote her own brand, Kinky Knickers, which is based around the idea of bringing trade back to Britain and helping those suffering in employment.
Despite Westminster School’s audacious internship eBay, there have been no official responses to what can only be termed as a disgusting display of inequality. Abusing their exclusivity, the school and its corporate partners are running riot in intimate cahoots, ensuring that the same kingpins will maintain their exclusive monopoly on City positions. If this issue is not rapidly addressed, the insufferable class divide will only widen, leading the advocates of meritocracy to be engulfed in vain.