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Exploitation

This morning, along with a lot of other people I know, I got an email from a Sheffield-based firm called IT Business Box. It was a fairly standard “here’s what we’re up to” mail that I didn’t specifically remember signing up to, but I let the potential spam pass.

They’re local to me, and it’s often interesting to know what’s going on in the industry in my back yard. So I read the mail, and clicked through to have a quick browse through their website.

What I found there has annoyed me enough to fire up a text editor and bang out a blog post.

On their “Join us” page, they’re advertising for a “web application developer” with PHP, MySQL, HTML and CSS skills. The ideal candidate would know a PHP framework, JavaScript, Unix admin and a whole laundry list of other skills.

Basically, it’s a typical jobbing web dev role in a small agency, and it’s the kind of job that many people get their first start in the industry with.

Except that this one is advertised as a “Work Placement (as part of university course) / Voluntry Work Experience”.

And it’s unpaid.

“IT Business Box Ltd. have an exciting opportunity for a burgeoning Web Application Developer to take part in work experience as part of our small team. “

This annoys me greatly, and it annoys me to the point where I think that the organisation in question should be named and shamed.

Here’s the first four reasons I came up with in the heat of the moment:

I do not buy the following excuses that could be offered for this:

Unpaid internships are a blight on a number of industries, and they’re something that should absolutely not be spread into mine. Firms that offer them deserve the attention and opprobrium that results.

Edited to add: Alex McClean made the very good point via Twitter that this is probably illegal in the first place under minimum wage legislation. IANAL, but the advert states that the the role has specific responsibilities, using phrases like “The candidate must be a self-starter and be able to take charge of their own projects”. As IT Business Box are’t a charity, voluntary organisation or a statutory body, it looks like they’re about to fall foul of employment legislation.