As a recent graduate, I am intrigued by Gordon Brown’s idea for a national internship scheme.
Under his proposals, university graduates unable to find a job at the end of their courses could be offered paid internships to prevent them joining the ranks of the unemployed.
Companies like Barclay’s and Microsoft have signed up to the scheme.
When the Government persuaded people of the idea of tuition fees, it was partly under the presumption that students from the best universities (where students paid higher fees) would land lucrative jobs and therefore have no trouble paying back large student loans over the course of a lifetime.
But things look a little different now that we are in the midst of a full blown economic recession.
Graduates from some of Britain’s best universities are struggling to find jobs. Milkround schemes have closed down. Banks and law firms are postponing their graduate intake. Most recently, one bank was fined by the FSA for faking its graduate scheme. It had no intention of taking anyone on but it didn’t want its competitors to know it was struggling.
The intern scheme put forward by the Government is the sort of policy innovation that we should welcome and it is probably the best, under the circumstances, that we can expect. We should not let graduates just fend for themselves. It will at least improve participants’ skills and experience and may in some cases lead to full time work. If, as the Government hopes, the interns will be paid at a rate slightly higher than undergraduates' income from grants and loans then at least they are getting some payment.
However, the internship scheme is probably not enough to tackle the scale of the problem. There will be tens of thousands of students hitting the job market in July and not enough internship places to go around for those not lucky enough to get a job. There will still be a lot of disappointed debt-ridden graduates come July who will be very angry with the Government.