I read an article in the Financial Times earlier this week (September 23, 2023) -…
I am back on my regular pattern which means there will be no detailed Wednesday blog – just some snippets if anything. This morning, I did a radio interview on the national broadcaster (ABC) about the growing spread of unpaid work experience. It was clear the interviewer thought that work experience was a good thing. I indicated that it was a creeping disease that has become part of the neoliberal agenda to erode the rights of workers. In Australia, this disease has morphed into a cost-shifting exercise where employers have pushed their responsibility to train their workforces onto the public education system and are now demanding payment from students to allow them to undertake so-called ‘work experience’. Increasingly, this practice is become built-into educational programs, which compromises the quality of the education. But while it is dressed up in mighty descriptions such as ‘preparing our youth for an exciting future’ it amounts to nothing more than unpaid work. The latest iteration is that now people pay to work for free. Our trade unions are largely silent on this scandal.
We now pay to work for free!
The interview was motivated by a report in the Fairax press yesterday (March 13, 2018) – Companies defend charging $1000 for unpaid internships – which documented how:
Students and graduates are forking out $1000 to undertake unpaid internships with a one in 64 success rate of picking up a full-time job and which don’t even take place at the company’s office.
… the firms involved insist they are simply providing the training universities have failed to deliver to prepare technology, business and engineering graduates for the real working world.
This has been a creeping neoliberal disease over the last few decades.
When there are enough jobs to meet the desires for work of the labour force (vacancies outstripping underutilised workers), firms had to take responsibility for the development of job-specific skills within their workplaces.
This was the full employment era.
It was when educational institutions educated – by which I mean, developed critical thinking skills, decision-making skills, and a general awareness of literature – which was meant to prepare people to function and contribute to a sophisticated society.
Vocational training, inasmuch as it was delivered outside the paid-work environment, was developed within technical colleges.
There was a clear distinction between education and training.
It was also understood that the lower productivity of workers during their training period would be matched by a lower wage than they would receive once their period of indenture was completed.
As the neoliberal grip has tightened, the distinction between education and training has become blurred and universities have become compromised into offering more vocational type courses.
Corporate pressure on governments and educational authorities has seen increased contamination of educational courses with material designed purely to advance private profit rather than provide general education.
We now have the absurd situation where university curriculum requires compulsory unpaid work in corporations as part of the educational programs.
The latest iteration of this creeping disease is that corporations now are charging students for the chance to work for free in the name of ‘work experience’.
We now have ridiculous situations where universities have taken on vocational training of say nurses, which were formally trained within the hospital system, and the public health authorities demanding universities pay for job placements as part of the work experience requirements in these courses.
The shift of nursing into universities was reasonable in that it redressed some of the inequities in authority structures between doctors and nurses (the latter now also having university degrees) but has opened the students to abuse in the form of unpaid work and other demands from prospective employers.
It is clear from the research evidence that this new era of ‘unpaid work’ does not lead to superior outcomes for the students once they graduate and enter the workforce in a more permanent way.
The so-called internships are nothing more than free labour for profit-seeking corporations and others who should be paying workers who work within their firms.
Alarmingly, the trade union movement has barely blinked at this creeping disease.
But with over 15 per cent of the available workforce underutilised (either unemployed or underemployed) the balance of power is firmly in the hands of the employer and they can cost-shift all their training responsibilities to the publicly-funded education system and demand payments from young prospective workers desperate for a foothold into a future job.
This cost-shifting has also undermined the quality of our educational systems.
The solution is to ensure government policy creates very tight labour markets (full employment), which will force the training responsibilities back on to the employers.
The problem is that current government policy deliberately creates this massive wastage of labour and desperation among our youth.
This is what I am listening to while working today.
I don’t usually like alto (I prefer tenor and baritone) but the way he played made the smaller member of the sax family sing so sweetly.
On his tone, he said:
I think I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to sound like a dry martini.
His most enduring song as a composer was Take Five (Dave Brubeck’s biggest hit).
I play the album a lot.
The excellent guitar playing is from Jim Hall – who is one of the giants of jazz guitar in the tradition of Wes Montgomery.
The song was later released on a 1997 compilation (Feeling Blue) which collected all Desmond’s early 1960s RCA Victor material.
Cool jazz – nice to think by.
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2018 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.