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Left in the Lurch – Thousands of Internship Offers Revoked

Internship Offers Revoked

Roar writer Izzy MacKellar argues for institutions to provide more support for students whose internship offers were revoked due to COVID-19.

In the past few weeks, thousands of students have received the dreaded confirmation that their internships are “indefinitely suspended”. They are now left with emptier CVs, bank accounts, and calendars than they would have ever anticipated for 2020.

In speaking to a number of KCL students, it becomes apparent that students are confronted with internships, year in industry placements, and study abroad programmes all having been cancelled with few alternative arrangements.

Students are now faced with the choice of deferring for a year with no ability to do a typical ‘gap yah’ or, alternatively, do their degree as planned despite graduating into a recession with no work experience. With barely any government support and advice, and KCL being unclear themselves, we really are left in the lurch.

One anonymous student spoke to us. “I, unfortunately, lost my year in industry at a top firm due to COVID-19,” they said. “KCL were initially unhelpful, giving me modules I didn’t like despite them having not allocated them yet. It was only thanks to my close relationship with my tutor that it managed to get sorted out.”

“I despair at anyone who may not have that, be in a similar situation, and feel helpless like I did. I’m disappointed at the lack of support KCL offered, with all the advice being generic and confused. They offered no personal support to me while I was in an obviously upsetting time.”

Not only do we need a much higher degree of support from KCL on these issues, but also from the government. Several MPs were approached for comment regarding how the government should be supporting us during this time.

Emma Hardy MP, Shadow FE & Universities Minister responded: “The Coronavirus crisis has had devastating consequences for student’s education, and no student should get into debt because of any disruption to their living situation or to their education. I have repeatedly called upon the government to make available significant support via universities existing Hardship Funds, to cover the costs for students who find themselves adversely affected by this crisis.”

Hardy is right. No student should get into debt because of any disruption to their living situation or education. This is a very real problem, especially as these now cancelled internships tend to be incredibly well paid. Many of us have been spending as though we will have that £3000 coming into our bank accounts and have stopped other forms of employment.

However, this is also a burden we will likely be carrying for years after we graduate. The hours we have spent crafting our internship applications in angst could have been spent at Guys Bar, for we are now on the same playing field as every other graduate.

We will also be graduating into a recession, one where us fresh graduates with no work experience will not only compete against each other but with highly skilled professionals who have taken redundancy. It won’t just be “who you know” but “how long have you known them.” When push comes to shove, the “pale, male and stale” will be chosen over fresh-faced Gen Z.

The multi-million-pound companies we are all looking to don’t provide much support either. Another anonymous student asked a representative from Deloitte earlier this week for advice on how we are meant to get graduate jobs when we will be competing against those with years of experience. Their only response was to “keep applying” and “be persistent”. But how exactly are we to keep applying if there are no jobs to apply for or, at least, none we will have the experience for?

Not all of us are hard-hit though. A lucky few have been offered graduate jobs instead of their summer internships. PwC has done this, as have a number of other consultancy firms. Some others have moved online (this is most common with Finance and Law firms) but even these programmes have been shortened. As a result, pay has also been altered. Deloitte, for example, has offered their previous internship cohort online training instead, with a ‘goodwill’ sum of £500, having interns take a £2500 pay cut.

Still, this is better than for those of us looking at industries such as journalism, politics and governance, PR, and research, where the internships continuing are few and far between. Ultimately, this is a stress none of us needed. In 2020 we expected our summer to be full of anxiety over networking and spreadsheets. Instead, we have anxiety over the cost of living and seeing “zero jobs found” on Seek.

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