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YOUNG job hunters are being encouraged by everyone from their careers advisers to the Prime Minister to do work experience as a vital step towards getting their first job.

And for some people that means working for nothing to boost their CVs and impress potential employers with their commitment.

Unpaid work experience has been criticised by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and Trades Union Council general secretary Brendan Barber.

But earlier this week former boss of Hertfordshire University Professor Sir Tim Wilson said unpaid internships are here to stay and form part of an extended interview process.

So is it right to work for nothing? LUCY LYNCH talks to two people with different views on the issue.

YES RECEPTIONIST Georgina Gabriel worked unpaid for two days a week over two months and says she doesn't regret it for a minute.

Her work experience led to a paid apprenticeship for the 19-year-old with the Rathbone Trust, a youth training charity with a base in Parkside, Cheylesmore, Coventry.

She left school with a BTEC in business but found it didn't lead to a job. Instead she enrolled on a foundation learning course with the Rathbone Trust. She fitted in work experience on the trust's reception around the training sessions. The work experience added up to about two days a week over two months, mostly done in half day shifts. An experienced receptionist taught her the basics of the job alongside useful skills such keeping records how to use computer packages.

At first she could claim education maintenance allowance but during her two months her entitlement ran out. She wasn't eligible to claim other benefits and lived in the family home with no income for the rest of that time.

She's now been working as a paid apprentice for a year. Her immediate career plans are to take the next step up the ladder and work in administration in a business. She said: "Once the EMA ran out I wasn't eligible for benefits or anything. The work experience was good because I didn't have a lot of experience and I needed more confidence.

"My first career plan was to work in child care. I did some work experience, which wasn't paid either. I found out that wasn't what I wanted to do. There was just too much paperwork. So that was quite useful for finding out what I didn't want to do.

"I would encourage people to do work experience paid or not.

People getting experience to get a job should be their main priority."

NO COVENTRY University student Leon Emirali set his sights not just on a career in public relations but a salaried job right from the start.

And his determination has paid off now as he's been offered a three-week paid trial with a public relations company in Leicestershire. If the trial is successful he will be offered a permanent paid job.

As part of his course he had to do two unpaid work experience placements which he completed at a BBC local radio station and at Coventry City Council. Once those had finished he vowed not to do any more and ignore the scores of unpaid internships advertised to graduates interested in a media jobs.

The 21-year-old, who grew up in Bedfordshire and moved to Coventry to study, said: "I value my skills and I value my time and I was being expected to work for free. It's not just a problem in the media industry it's a problem in lots of industries. It's exploitation and it's just not workable."

While some young people are lucky enough to have parents who can give them money to live on while they work for free Leon isn't one of those. And to work for free he would not only have to give up his part time job in a restaurant but pay for travel to his work place.

He said: "I'd be losing money. It's all right if you're from a wealthy background but I just can't afford it. My dad doesn't even understand how companies can advertise and interview people for unpaid work. I had to do work unpaid work experience for my course. I feel I've done it now and I don't want to do more unpaid work.

"I'd like to write to my MP about it but I haven't because so many MPs advertise for unpaid interns I don't expect them to campaign against the concept - I would be asking someone to do something hypocritical."


PAID TRIAL: Leon Emirali had to do unpaid work experience placements NO REGRETS: Georgina Gabriel says her work experience led to a paid apprenticeship
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Mar 8, 2012
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