The Guest Blog

By an intern

In times of high unemployment and economic crisis any opportunity to work is a precious one. An internship in Brussels is a great chance to develop practical skills and to gain work experience, and many of us interns here in Brussels greatly appreciate the efforts taken by all authorities involved in the transmission of skills to young professionals. Nevertheless this should not prevent us from drawing public attention to inappropriate conditions in the internship system. Being politically active citizens we have the duty to communicate what we feel needs improving.

It is a fact that many Interns in Brussels work long hours without reimbursement or a contract. Many do not receive the guidance and training they expect. Unsurprisingly, interns often question the value of their work. The danger for Europe is that highly motivated and well educated young people, ready to work hard, may lose their passion to improve society in the face of inappropriate conditions.

At the heart of the issue of unpaid and underpaid internships is the issue of social justice. Whilst many people can benefit from parental or governmental support to be able to do an internship, thousands of equally talented and motivated young people across Europe are unable to do an internship in Brussels simply due to lack of financial means. This current regime of social exclusion must be recognised.

Our aim now is not to prescribe specific solutions. We are not policy-makers or company strategists, but interns who have experienced the problems of the current-system first hand. We see it as our role to raise awareness of this issue amongst a wide audience to create change for the benefit of both current and future interns in Brussels. We are organising a ‘sandwich protest’ from 11am to 1pm on Wednesday 17th July in Place Luxembourg, to together publicly address the weakness of the current system. So far over 330 people have said they will attend the event.

During the event messages of support from various MEPs and the Youth intergroup of the European Parliament will be read out. The social enterprise internsgopro will also be carrying out a survey to discover what interns value most in an internship, as part of their ongoing project to evaluate the quality of internships across different sectors. Other groups such as the European Youth Forum will also be distributing information about their efforts to tackle the issue of unfair internship conditions.

We do not believe that with our one act we will change the entire system. Nevertheless we hope to start a process of increasing pressure from below to address the issues surrounding internships. We understand that there are many people in influential positions working hard to improve the current system. What they need from us is the additional pressure to help bolster their case and bring about change. We hope that our successors will continue this pressure and will follow up this protest with similar actions later in the year.

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