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Nearly half of interns work unpaid

A huge number of graduates are being taken on as interns without being paid, new research shows amid growing anger at young people working for free.

A survey of 22,000 graduates by advice group Graduate Prospects showed that of those taking up internships, 43% were not paid.

Mike Hill, chief executive of Graduate Prospects, said: "Despite the hype around unpaid work experience placements over the last few years, we can see from the study that a huge proportion of interns still have to work for free.

"I have recently been involved in creating the first code of best practice for high-quality internships endorsed and supported by the Government.

"It clearly states that companies offering a placement of six weeks or more should pay the national minimum wage to an intern if they are contributing to a company, have a list of duties and are working set hours."

The study also found that while graduates recognised the value of work experience, saying it presented opportunities to try out jobs, develop skills and build confidence, many felt more could be done by universities and employers to promote and organise internships.

Respondents also felt that students should achieve basic working knowledge of office skills, technology and networking through extra-curricular training courses and information sessions while at university to help prepare them for the workplace.

The issue of unpaid internships is expected to be debated at the TUC Congress in London next week, with union officials arguing that no one should work for nothing.

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