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Students will work for free to enhance career

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90% of students are willing to work for free or take minimum wage jobs in order to secure a graduate job, according to new research.

The research showed that in order to kick start their career, half of university students were willing to work for free and 40% were willing to work for minimum wage.

These findings follow news of rising unemployment among graduates.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) revealed today that more than 20,000 students – around one in 10 – who left university last summer were out of work six months later. This figure has almost doubled in the past four years, as has the number of graduates in "elementary occupations."

Danielle Grufferty, NUS vice-president, is calling for government action to prevent exploitation of graduates, arguing that the pressure to complete unpaid work puts those from poor families on the back foot.

She believes that the graduates who are being thrust into this unwelcoming job market need to be protected by law.

"Unpaid labour is illegal and the government must enforce minimum wage legislation."

She added that: "Working for free is only a possibility for those who have the means to support themselves financially, with no guarantee of a job or even an experience that will help them in future."

Ben Lyons, from Intern Aware, added that the new phenomenon of unpaid work is a short-sighted business practice. "As well as pricing out smart, hardworking young people, it's bad for businesses who lose out on talent, and risk the consequences of being in breach of employment law."

According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters graduate vacancies dropped by 1.7% last year. Still they predict the average starting salary for graduates employed by blue chip companies will increase by 4% to £26,000 this year.

Graduate salary expectations remain at £20k.

Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, said: “Internships can help graduates boost their job applications but they're not the only way to stand out. 

"You don't necessarily need to take on a full three-month internship. All workplace experience is useful in terms of boosting your confidence, helping you decide on your career objectives, and helping you gain transferable skills.

"Employers and recruiters today are looking for 'soft skills' such as communication skills, the ability to work in a team, and good time management."

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