England & Wales HR, workforce and communications

A local alternative to unpaid internships


For young people up and down the country, finding full time, permanent paid work is really tough. What many school leavers and graduates now face is being academically qualified for jobs but lacking the real work experience which many employers require as a minimum, writes Roshni Mistry.

One of the reasons why employers are expecting so much more for their entry-level positions is the vast number of unpaid internships that many companies are now offering. The availability of these internships mean that organisations can now demand that their their entry-level positions are filled by people who already have three to four months worth of real work experience.

While many young people can benefit from unpaid internships, those who come from lower income families simply do not have the money to work for free in full time roles. This is the position I found myself in after graduation. Luckily, my local authority, Leicestershire County Council, offers young people the chance to gain meaningful work experience within the council alongside mentoring, CV and interview preparation and personal support.

For me, the support and guidance into work from my local authority was a lifeline. I could not afford to work full time in an unpaid position to gain work experience. Although my work experience with the council was not paid, I was never out of pocket and was reimbursed for any expenses. The scheme was tailored to how many days I could commit to in the week, so I had part time retail job for income. After a couple of months at the council I was offered a full time paid internship (London living wage) at LGiU, which then became a permanent position. I am confident that I would not have got this job without the work experience and support offered by my local council.

A 2015 report, which looked into local authorities helping young people into work, found that over half of all unemployed young people are not in receipt of jobseekers allowance. This means that there are a worrying number of young people, many of whom face complex barriers into work, who are receiving no support to enter the workplace.

Local authorities have a lot to offer young people who are looking for structured work experience. The council is made up of a wide range of experts with varying sets of skills – ICT, education, law, health and social care, leisure and heritage just to name a few.

Local authorities are also in a unique position in the community; they can provide young people with an opportunity to gain real work experience, where the development of the young person is the main focus. Councils know their local areas and know what skills gaps there are in the local workforce. They are well placed to be providing young people with support into employment, which ends up benefiting the entire community.

Roshni Mistry is LGiU’s External Affairs Coordinator