In my department in DCU, our third year students will soon go out on work placement (INTRA). Most will be paid the minimum wage at least: that’s about €400 per week. There was a time, during the financial crisis, when employers took advantage of the situation and did not pay students at all but thankfully those days are behind us – as far as I know.
For many the INTRA placement is the highlight of their degree programme and it is in this period that they learn the importance of communication, time management, initiative and all those soft skills that are best taught in the work environment.
Even though the INTRA placement is a key part of our students’ education and is assessed on a pass/fail basis, it has never occurred to us to link this fact with whether or not our students should be paid. The employers are gaining something from employing our students so it’s just taken as a given that they should have to pay for whatever service our students are providing.
So why is this argument – namely that a nursing placement is part of their education and therefore payment should not be part of the deal – made when it comes to nursing students?
It makes no sense and it has the marks of the permanent civil service all over it. Not for the first time, the state is acting to serve itself and nursing students are the victims this time around.
The state is behaving like the most exploitative employers that I had the ‘pleasure’ to visit during the height of the financial crisis. It’s not a good look.