Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Regulating Unpaid Work for Education

Greetings from the Australian National University where Professor Rosemary Owens, from the University of Adelaide, is speaking on "Young people and the future of work: The Regulatory Challenges of Unpaid Work at the Intersection of Education and Work". Professor Owens is part of an ARC funded research project on internships. There is a recent paper "Regulating for Decent Work Experience: Meeting the Challenge of the Rise of the Intern" (Owens & Stewart, 2015).

Professor Owens suggested that in the past people would be educated when young. In times past, I suggest that an apprentice would have to pay the master to be taken on, that is the apprentice would pay for their work-place training.

One area which might be usefully research is the area of start-ups. Unviersites are now setting up their own innovaiton programs and having

This is very topical. I am tutoring university IT students who have to do a project, preferably for a real company. It can be difficult to find enough projects for the students. One way this can be supplemented is with start-ups by the students themselves or other students.

It seems reasonably clear that if an employer is offering educationally useful experience to a student, that should be permitted by the law. To prevent the students being exploited, they should be enrolled in a formal course which has an internship as a formal part of the course.

I had the good fortune to be trained in IT in the Australian Public Service. It was understood that I would spend a considerable part of my time at training courses, paid for by my employer and on full pay. Such schemes still exist in the APS ICT Cadetship Programme.

 Professor Owens expressed concern abut unpaid internships which did not necessarily lead to a job. However, before criticizing companies, universities need to look to their own practices. Graduate research students get used as cheap, or free, labor by universities to conduct research, do teaching and administrative functions. On graduation the student finds there are very few permanent jobs in academia.


Owens, R., & Stewart, A. (2015, July). Regulating for Decent Work Experience: Meeting the Challenge of the Rise of the Intern. In Regulating for Decent Work Network Conference, Geneva.

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