Internships play an important role in connecting young people with employers and giving them the skills they need for the workforce, so it is misleading to make negative generalisations about these opportunities, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said today.
James Pearson, CEO of the Australian Chamber, said: “When an internship program is run well as part of a university or vocational college course it can give people a valuable understanding of the realities of work life and open doors to future employment, while also giving employers a chance to identify potential recruits.
“Employers are seeking graduates with practical job skills, and internships allow them to hit the ground running. Internships have long been a part of our working culture, such as for doctors or teachers in training, and are now being extended to other industries. Many people who have gone on to great careers have got a foothold in their industry through an internship program.
“A person’s entitlement to pay will depend on the nature of the internship. Unpaid internships that are part of an academic course are long-accepted and have an important role to play in inducting young people into meaningful careers.
“Employers need to make sure internships are not misused. If anyone has concerns they should raise them with the organisation they are working with or seek advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman.
“But negative generalisations about internships undermine their important role in providing people with the chance to experience the workplace, learn directly about potential careers and relate their formal education and training to the real world of work.
“It is pleasing to see so many tertiary courses now involve work-integrated learning, which requires students to undertake an internship as part of their qualification. By improving Australia’s skill base, particular in professional and technical services, internships will support Australia’s competitiveness and so the benefits go beyond the students involved.
“As more students undertake generalist degrees, their career path is less clear, so internships can help students to better understand the range of professional opportunities available and their interest in and suitability for them.
“Given the concerning figures released today about low undergraduate completion rates at universities, we need to support internships that are part of a course given they are a valuable avenue into the workforce.”