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Vince Cable Criticises “Students Being Exploited as Cheap Labour During Internships”

Following a report by TheCityUK and Santander decrying the dearth of graduate talent entering the financial services sector, Vince Cable has highlighted the plight many student trainees face when applying for placements with multi-national companies.

Cable has spoken of the financial hardship wrought on students as multi-nationals take months to pay expenses following job placement assessments. Typical of those affected is Flo Instone, a Newnham College, Cambridge undergraduate. Following an invitation to attend a distant Vodafone assessment centre, which necessitated both a train journey and an overnight stay, Flo submitted her expenses claim.

She says, “On January 11th 2019, I travelled to Vodafone HQ in Newbury for an assessment centre. I did the same for other multinationals. In all cases, due to the distance from Cambridge, I had to book trains and overnight stays. I was told my expenses would be reimbursed shortly after completion of the assessment centre. After countless emails to Vodafone, where I was forwarded to different people and departments, I was finally reimbursed on April 20th – over three months after attending the assessment centre. This wasted much precious time, as I am about to sit my finals. “

Cable has spoken of the financial hardship wrought on students as multi-nationals take months to pay expenses following job placement assessments.

Commenting on the matter, Vince Cable, MP for Twickenham (Flo’s home town) said, “There is a recent history of students being exploited as cheap labour during internships. And the behaviour of assessment centres run by big corporates such as Vodafone rather confirms the impression that they do not treat young people as a potentially valuable human resource – as they should – but as an easily exploitable group. Otherwise, they would treat young people with more respect and make sure their expenses are fully and promptly paid.”

Students frequently have to undertake prolonged interviews and assessment exercises in order to assess their suitability for graduate schemes, often held at centres some distance from their university. This can necessitate travel as well as the need for an overnight stay. With student debt constantly rising, expenses for travel and overnight stays need to be paid back promptly, as many students struggle to live on an already challenging budget.

Looking ahead, big businesses require their workforces to be digitally aware, flexible and diverse in order to flourish. Whilst the UK remains at the forefront of the fintech ecosystem – sporting remarkable growth and promise – it will need to take better care of its most precious resource if it wants to stay there.

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