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Europe-wide 'Tripadvisor for internships' launches
A "Tripadvisor for internships" launching in Brussels this week will allow young people to share anonymous data about the quality of job opportunities across Europe.
The crowdsourced Transparency at Work database will be launched at an event on Thursday, on the eve of International Interns Day on 10 November. It has received funding from the European Commission and been developed by the European Youth Forum and Interns Go Pro, with the support of a network of international universities, interns' associations and media.
Bryn Watkins, managing member of the Brussels Interns NGO (Bingo), says the platform aims to empower young people to find quality internships at organisations, based on rankings provided by those who have worked there.
"To steal someone else's brand name it's a little bit like Tripadvisor for youth employment experiences," he told The Bulletin. "It could an internship, a graduate scheme, a training placement, an apprenticeship, a first job after uni.
"You can go and rate your experience - were you being fairly paid, were you getting proper learning, were you well supervised. It empowers young people before they start applying to have a look and ask: is this an employer I want to give my time to?"
Watkins hopes the peer-to-peer database will alert policymakers "to the scale of what is going on" in the youth job market. "So many internships are on the black market - they are illegal, unregistered, unnoticed work. There is no clear data out there," he says. "This platform will allow us to get a clearer picture of what kind of internships young people are doing."
He says there has been "a real shift in behaviour" in Brussels - but there is still a long way to go. "Unpaid internships for graduates are already illegal under Belgian law. We don't need new laws, we just need people to follow them.
"In the job ads you see listed in Brussels, you don't see that many unpaid internships advertised for graduates. But that's not a victory because the vast majority of internships in Brussels are not advertised."
'No sense of their own value'
The site hopes to gather 100,000 ratings in three years and provide data on 10,000 companies around Europe. Criteria include pay, supervision, learning opportunities, workplace culture and opportunities for career development. Several big companies have already pledged to use the platform to provide transparency about youth employment opportunities, including Microsoft and brewer AB Inbev.
"Young people are very talented, very well educated, they've got two masters, they speak several languages - and yet the labour market is set up in such a way that they develop no sense of their own value," Watkins says.
"We're not fighting for job creation, we're not fighting for some pot of money that will create jobs for young people. What we are fighting for is a fair level playing field for young people to try and make their way."
He says anyone in the Brussels job market can play a role: "If you have a job and you care about this, the main thing you can do is check on the interns in your own organisation - don't turn a blind eye.
"One of the best places to start is in your own organisation, where you work. Interns need the staff around them to have their back and to look after them."
The Transparency at Work project will be launched at a free event open to all at Mundo-B in Ixelles on Thursday evening. On Friday, a conference is being held at the European Commission to discuss quality internships in the EU.