Many trainees exploited as cheap or unpaid labour; Unacceptable, says the student organization.

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Forty-four percent of HBO and college students do not receive an internship stipend. According to a ResearchNed study conducted on behalf of Intercity Student Consultation (ISO), one in four people also felt they were being used as a regular employee without being fairly compensated.

More than 4,900 students completed a questionnaire for the study in March and April. According to the ISO, this showed that students experience their internship as an instructive and often essential part of their education. But trainee positions can still be improved, ISO said.

For example, 19% of survey participants indicated that they had too much responsibility as an intern. “An internship can be difficult, but it’s impossible that as an intern you’ll be saddled with a mammoth list of tasks and responsibilities,” said ISO President Lisanne de Roos.

According to the ISO, the absence of an internship allowance regularly causes problems for students. In the education and health sectors, sectors where the most internships take place, students are the least likely to obtain a stipend. The ISO suspects this is because internship pay is often not part of the collective agreement, leaving interns dependent on the goodwill of the employer. “A full-time internship is often difficult or impossible to combine with part-time work. Students find themselves in financial difficulty if they are forced to give up the income from their part-time work, and there is no compensation in place,” De Roos said.

ISO has developed a five-point plan to tackle internship issues. To prevent internship abuse — the use of interns as regular employees without paying them fair compensation — students need to be able to more easily discuss their suspicions with their institution. ISO also wants the internship allowance to be mandatory. Institutions and employers must clarify the rights and obligations of trainees. And they should invest in orientation. In order to better understand internships in higher education, ISO has also advocated for continuous monitoring of the offer, quality and supervision of internships.

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