There’s no such thing as an ‘Unpaid Intern’

The legal loophole for exploitative labour is expanding at an exponential rate.

Remember the days when we used to work for money? Well welcome to the world where you work for experience in the hope that one day you’ll be lucky enough to work for money. That’s the bleak reality for many young people in Ireland today faced with little option beyond unpaid internships, emigration or unemployment.

You’d be justified in thinking such a pernicious phenomenon as not paying people for work must have caused quite a stir. Well guess what? You’re dead wrong. Unpaid internships have nonchalantly become the norm while crowds in the colosseum of public opinion fervently cheer the corporate lion as she devours the young and spoiled, smartphone generation.

Rare does a week go by without the media letting off some steam on the Avo-toast munching, millennial punching bag as the cold hard facts and figures of rent prices, extortionate mortgage rates and looming student loans are quickly dispelled by a story that a twenty-two-year-old spent 3 euro on coffee! Argument Won!

Yet with new CSO figures revealing that 500 graduates a week are leaving the country, those who were bowing to cranes and rejoicing “recovery” have been left puzzled and scratching their head. It’s not difficult to see why people who wear suits and work in Grand Canal Dock are questioning why the whining, spoilt brats are flocking in their droves.

Unpaid work is still a heavily sector-specific problem. If you want to work in a bank or corporate law firm – the moral gatekeepers of society- you can still expect to be paid handsomely. But look to the arts, academia, public health or journalism and you’ll see the vital organs of our society collapsing around us. Is there any long-term plan for their survival? For a country which prides itself on producing some of the worlds most acclaimed artists and musicians’, we seem awfully content with a bland, spreadsheet future of tech and finance.

Creative jobs are rare, generally located in Dublin and nine times out of ten contingent on previous experience. If anyone can explain to me how a young person is expected to work for free in Dublin for six months with its stomach churning rent and transport costs, please let me know.

Ivanka Trump recently gave it a go when she published a piece online entitled “how to make it work as an unpaid intern” with some brilliant advice on how to get by working for free with your measly billion dollar bank account.

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Ivanka epitomizes the classist, exclusivity of unpaid internships. “What’s the big deal just live off money from your parents?” and if the poor people really want to work in film or graphic design they can slog it out as a kitchen porter for two years, save up and get the reward of working for free in Dublin for a few months.

The argument often rolled out to justify the current dynamic is that companies simply cannot afford to pay young people and the wage of “work experience” is the best they can offer. The last time I checked non-payment for work wasn’t an option on the table for businesses and we hadn’t (yet) amended the minimum wage laws to exempt young people. But spend thirty seconds skimming Linkedin’s list of graduate entry jobs and you’ll quickly see unpaid six, even nine month “internships” being offered at an alarming rate.

The minimum wage exists for a reason. It’s not just for show. It’s to protect people from the very exploitation and systemic greed which unpaid internships are capitalizing upon through peoples’ desperation for work.

The youth unemployment rate in the EU may be decreasing but non-standard forms of employment are rising exponentially. Unpaid and unregulated internships are replacing entry-level jobs and the app economy is luring people into insecure, zero-hour contracts.

If businesses genuinely can’t afford to pay their interns the minimum wage then they are either not commercially viable enterprises or illegally and systematically breaking society’s most basic and fundamental bargain.

 

 

 

 

 

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When A Desi Girl Goes to University

Rabia Khan writes on the everyday difficulties of university life for women in the sub-continent. 

 

‘My mom asked me to send her a picture of what I was wearing.’ 

All of us flinch. 

OMG, same.’

More flinching.

‘What did you do?’

‘I stopped replying.’

All of us laugh.

I can’t say if this is something all girls living away from home at university experience but it’s definitely something common. 

About two years ago when my sister was preparing to leave for university,  she was sent out a list of clothing she was allowed to wear on campus/ dorms etc. She had to get almost an entirely new wardrobe. According to university requirements; necessary wearing of dupatta (long scarf), no jeans, no short shirts, no heels, no capris etc. I remember my mom rushing my sister from gulf to dolmen mall, buying her dupattas, longer kurtis etc.

Thankfully, the university I am currently attending doesn’t have a strict dress code like this but conversations like the one at the beginning of this piece still take place. The only difference is, now, far from home, there is only so much your mum can do to check up on what you are wearing.

We live in a society where girls have to dress a certain way, be back home at a certain time, have a certain sort of  company to not be termed ‘loose’ women. Therefore going away to university is a whole new world, especially for women. There is so much more space and freedom to navigate around; it’s liberating, yet, at the same time it’s overwhelming.

Conversations between friends tend to go something like this: 

‘Man, I went back to my dorm room at like 4 a.m last night.’ 

‘What were you doing until then?’ 

‘Nothing just hanging out with ‘x,y and z.’ It was so boring and exhausting, yet, I didn’t want to go in.’

‘Why not?’ 

‘Because, like, at home, my parents have never let me stay out this late ever. And now, to be able to do that, it’s just like you don’t want to miss the chance to stay out.’ 

I remember my first week at university was spent staying out of the dorm till at least 2 a.m, doing absolutely nothing but sitting with a group of people and laughing over the stupidest stuff. It felt great. The conversation eventually grew stale and boring, but knowing that hey I can do this. I can exist outside of ‘home’ this late at night, without being told that girls aren’t supposed to be out at this time of night, was worth it.

When you start living in a hostel with a bunch of other girls you start having conversations and start noticing how many of the things we do are simply because of the restrictions placed on us by the society we have lived and have grown up in. 

If you are out with a group at the mall, someone is going to say, ‘hey, I wanna get a picture with just us girls so my mom knows that I have female friends.’ Or that she knows I was out with girls only. 

You ask your roommate to take a picture of you in a proper shalwar kameez and dupatta, to send on your family group, because that’s what good girls wear, and because you know that’s what your family expects you to wear. 

Before your roommate’s mom comes to visit, you both have ‘the talk’ where you decide what things you are supposed to mention and not mention. And, as her mother asks what time her daughter goes to bed at, you tell her with your face in the closet, ‘Aunty, she is back by 10 everyday.’ 

The first few times you go out in jeans and that T-shirt your borrowed from a friend, you are extremely apprehensive. You keep asking if you look fine, if your butt isn’t too obvious, or maybe if you should just change into a kurti. 

When you go out late for coffee or dinner off campus, you are scared and you keep asking your friend ,’ what if my mom calls?’ You make sure that you call your parents early and tell them you are tired and going to sleep so they don’t call you when you are out. You stay off social media, in case they see you online. 

You hear the line, ‘ there is a difference between lying and omitting the truth’ about a gazillion times, because you have told your roommate, about a gazillion times, how much you hate lying to your parents. This conversation takes place right after you have both just told your mothers that ‘yes, we have been praying.’ 

Sometimes the worst thing is sitting in a group of people listening to your friend talk to her mom, trying to convince her that she isn’t lying, and then being made fun of by the boys at the table because they just don’t understand. 

And the thing is, it is so hard to come to terms with the fact that what you are doing isn’t wrong, but that you have been socially conditioned into believing that it is. It isn’t easy to rid oneself of almost two decades worth of conditioning. It is relentless and unreal how difficult existence is made for women in society. 

Rabia is a blogger and university student in Pakistan, you can visit her blog ‘Travesty’ here: 

https://rabianajmkhan.wordpress.com/

Why You Shouldn’t Be A Blogger

A beautiful short on the internal struggle of every creative.

 

Thinking you’re not good enough is something nearly every writer experiences. From thinking ‘what’s the point’ to ‘I’m just not talented enough’ , overcoming our internal doubts is often half the creative process.

Filmmaker and founder of DSLR Guide Simon Cade has unveiled a brilliant short video on overcoming our artistic insecurities and being resilient writers. Shot with the camera looking up at the gloomy grey clouds while handwritten text mirrors the narrator’s dialogue, it is a captivating arrangement which captures the journey of becoming confident and comfortable with your work.

Check out ‘Why You Shouldn’t Be An Artist’ below:

 

 

Why Schools Fail Students

Author: Edducan

Charles Ponzi. Bernie Madoff. Benedict Arnold. Richard Nixon. Lance Armstrong. Some copper-bottomed, hall of fame, heavy weight champions of world class liars. Their very names are synonymous with deception, lies, fabrications, flights of fancy and half truths. Notably absent from that list is ‘every school in the UK’. However, and it’s a big ‘however’, this is a catastrophic omission that everyone has been complicit in.

Okay, maybe not ‘every’ school but certainly it’s true that from time immemorial the education system has been comprehensively failing to prepare their young charges with the skills, tools and knowledge to make informed choices about their futures. The guy at my school threw a psychometric test in front of us, asked if we wanted to be lawyers and drifted off into an ante-room, the subject never to be discussed again. Corralled into university courses that serve only to line the universities’ pockets and boost the schools’ stats, there are generations of degree-qualified, directionless, unemployable young adults drifting from hairnet and name-tag to hairnet and name-tag in a series of jobs that on paper they should have left behind. Worthless degrees are almost a cottage industry in the UK and it’s been allowed to happen because of years of schools creating an atmosphere of rank terror that tells kids without a degree they may as well abandon all hope.

Of course degrees are wonderful and schools should rightly encourage ambition, but it’s surpassed that lofty goal and become a rote exercise in getting them out the door so they can pat themselves heartily on the backs and congratulate one another on a job well done. Three years after the fact when these poor, mis-sold kids emerge from Westminster University with a degree in David Beckham Studies and £50,000 of debt it doesn’t affect their stats so why should they give a shit right?

edducan uni

The crazy thing is I thought people would care about this, that they would share my outrage so I asked the schools, the parents, the LEAs, the MP, even the local paper to try and help me raise awareness, I assumed that this is an issue that they would want to solve. Turns out they really didn’t. The schools were defensive, the parents in denial, the LEAs resigned, the MP ineffectual and the local paper more interested in generating revenue than news. So now I resort to huffing and puffing on the internet like so many other frustrated keyboard warriors.

Seeing Both Sides of the Coin

Working in recruitment and as an academic advisor I see both sides, I hear employers lament the lack of quality and I see schools making great claims about how wonderfully they’re performing. Ofsted estimates about 70% of schools are failing to give the right quality and amount of help in careers advice, The Sutton Trust concurs, as does the DfE, the LEAs and employers. In fact the only people who disagree are the schools.

Microcosmically the area I live in, I’ve contacted, spoken to or met every secondary school in the Cheshire West and Chester and Cheshire East regions. Several times. With the exception of private clients and a few bold schools this has yielded almost no work. Because ‘they do all this already’. Not with outside providers you understand, heaven forefend they actually engage experts in the field, no, no – they simply draw on the wellspring of their already overstretched faculty, who by the very nature of their profession, are only qualified to tell students about accessing a career in teaching. My business partner, a qualified teacher, holds qualifications in teaching English as a second language, the fundamentals of college counselling and a PhD from Columbia University and me with 14 years of getting people jobs, writing CVs, interview coaching, developing professional comportment and networking skills should quite rightly defer to a 23 year-old graduate who’s somehow ambled arse backwards into the position of Head of Careers. As well they should, given their background in teaching Geography.

 

Wilful Blindness

Conversations I’ve had include gems like, ‘60% of our students go on to Russell Group universities.’ What about the 40% that don’t? I presume it must be even more exciting, so much so they couldn’t bring themselves to tell me. The Chair of Governors of a free school described our offering of careers and university advice as the ‘latest fad’. Yup, apparently preparing students for life after school is a passing whimsy. One school’s quick to assure me when I make contact they are on top of things because they have their DT teacher on the case. Phew. Without knowing what we can offer, the schools dismiss outside help without a second thought, such is either the level of arrogance or the wilful ignorance of how badly what they’re doing is regarded by anyone who actually knows what they should be doing. When we offered to host free seminars to let parents and students know they had options they would return to their blank-faced, unblinking menhir like ‘computer says no’ response. Unassailable, unreasonable and completely unwilling to loosen their stranglehold – the mentality seems to be one of:

‘I don’t care how badly we’re doing it, we mustn’t let anyone else try and do it better.’

We conducted a survey asking people their feelings on the provision available and what became clear was the amount of trust conferred to schools, trust that’s not been reinforced by facts or even anecdotal evidence just blind faith. We collectively have allowed them to enjoy this feted position as the guardians of our children’s futures and ceded responsibility but haven’t held them to account when it starts to unravel. They employ antiquated techniques, hangovers from a bygone era and hope that by giving kids access to a few links detailing what jobs exist they’re fulfilling their obligations. It’s beyond reckless, it’s borderline criminal.

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So what can be done? Lobby the schools, push them to explain how and why they feel a woodwork teacher is the best person to tell their children how to access a career in bio-engineering or arts administration or how to study overseas, or get grants and scholarships to work in molecular biology. Ask them what qualifies them to tell kids how to write a CV or how to interview.

Or how to get work experience and conduct informational interviews. Or network. Or how to construct an application for an apprenticeship or job or university personal statement. Ask them to prove that they’re one of the illustrious 30% of schools that are getting at least some of it right. If they can’t answer those questions then speak to your MP. Or read my book.

 

Edducan is a blogger helping parents and students alike get the best from education and carve the life they want.

Check out his website here:

https://edducan.blog/

Why Getting Past Status Anxiety is The Key to Fulfilment

 

We live in a world where once you leave school or college you are defined by “what you do” or more precisely what your profession is.

Occupation stratifies us into a hierarchy of social status with rich people at the top and poor people at the bottom.

Philosopher and founder of The School Of Life Alain De Botton describes how this modern capitalist obsession with economic status is a recipe for depression and deep dissatisfaction. Most of us are unable to bring our true richness of character and personality in line with our business card. Our jobs rarely, if ever, fully reflect who we are as people but merely a small part of ourselves which is publicly on view.

Yet the market based capitalist machine only recognises outward financial, external achievement. Yet most of us carry all kinds of richness which we are unable to translate into quantifiable monetary terms leaving us feel dissatisfied because our human talents are not profitable.

The antidote to overcoming debilitating anxiety around status is to recognise the value of our non monetary goods. Such as being a good friend, being an honest person or being someone who cares for their community and environment around them.

These are incredibly valuable traits and we should look to judge ourselves and the people around us on a comprehensive complete analysis and not narrow the lens of social status to be based on economic output!

Why Robots Could Be Human

Author: Jonny Scott

 

Robots are taking over the world! Run! But where? I’m scared!

We hear a lot of crazy talk nowadays about robot dominance, endangerment of the human race and life being one big computer simulation. But is it all crazy? Or is there anything we can learn from it? Let’s pretend we’re scientists and try figure it out.

 

We’ve probably all heard of the universal simulation theory. The theory goes that we’re all players in a video game. Call that game, “life”. As players, we have gained consciousness. Every player operates within the boundaries of the game but some players are more conscious than others. Just like in video games, there are random life forms that are just there to make the environment seem more realistic. The more dominant players have the most consciousness. Consciousness is control over our actions. It’s freedom, or at least, the illusion of freedom. We can choose what to do, and develop ourselves to reach higher consciousness.

Players with higher consciousness reach higher levels in the game. Players with low consciousness are unproductive, overlooked characters, who are just there to make the game seem more realistic.
We are aware that by developing our control, or consciousness, we become more dominant players in the game and know not be low consciousness players who just go through the pre-programmed motions of life.
Is this an accurate explanation of the game of life? Even though it makes sense, and seems an interesting way to frame the world, we’ll never really know for certain.

But with this framework in mind we can relate it to the newest form of life, the form we have created. Artificial intelligence. The new form with major potential for power and intelligence which may greater than ours. But here’s the thing, will we get to the point where artificial intelligence is indistinguishable from human intelligence? The truth is, we have already surpassed that point.

You’re browsing the internet, and pop! Up comes an instant chat. Who’s on the other end? A sexy single in your area who’s dying to meet you? A service worker who is offering home repair? A phone company who promises to beat your current rate? Or, an artificially intelligent chat-bot? It’s becoming harder to tell the difference.

We are creating intelligence that is becoming a mirror of human intelligence. You might have a conversation with a more articulate Amazon Echo-like robot and not even realize until you look up and notice you’re talking to a little electronic device, not a human. Let’s take this to the next step.

 

Take a more articulate Amazon Echo, put it in a human costume, and program it with algorithms that teach it to walk and move like we do, and what do you have? Let’s see, if it walks like a human, talks like a human, looks like a human, what’s our first instinct? Smash it open and see if it spills blood or wires? See if it has organs or computers? Maybe, but more likely, we’ll just call it a human.

You see, life has cycles. Evolution takes time. But look at what we have already created, and imagine it as continuing evolution. A more evolved Siri, Amazon Echo, or humanoid robot basically is a human. Or maybe, a superhuman. An evolved human race that has potential to turn us into pets or entertainment puppets. We won’t have control. But we can fix this.

We see the potential for robotic-life integration into the world. It’s awesome. Robotics make life easier. But we have to remain in control. If dominance comes down to a battle of human vs robot intelligence, we can’t lose. With humanity’s increased reliance on computerised power we have become lazy and externalised much of our own brain power. It’s not as much of a necessity anymore. With less brain power comes less self control. If control is similar to consciousness, we can’t let robots gain more consciousness than us. If that happens, it won’t be a simple “pull the plug” situation.

 

And that’s kind of scary. But it doesn’t have to be. If we continue working alongside technology, and not depending on it for survival, we will truly thrive like never before. We have to prioritise human intelligence, brain power and see technology as an aid to our human intelligence rather than a replacement. We have to stay in control.

Or, maybe everyone is wrong, nothing matters and reality is a simulation controlled by higher power. Who can know for sure? All we can do is work within the limitations of our knowledge and try to find happiness and success within it.

Jonny Scott is a young American who writes about everything from the banes of modern society to the pressing issues of current affairs. You can follow his excellent blog here:

CALL FOR WRITERS

Have some ideas you’d like to get off your chest? Want to expand your online presence and engage with other bloggers on a topic?

I would love to feature some great op-eds if people are interested. We’ve already featured some amazing contributing writers from Kenya to Pakistan, Greece to Spain and are looking to add to the global team.

If interested you can contact us at: dreamersthatdo2016@gmail.com

Thanks,

Conor