Aug 20 2013
Independent: Too much for too little… the death of a Bank of America intern must herald reform of the internship industry
Lamenting the state of internships in the UK is certainly nothing new. But, following the death of 21-year-old Bank of America intern Moritz Erhardt in London, perhaps businesses might start paying more attention to the way they treat those at the bottom of the ladder. While an official cause of death is yet to be announced, posters on notoriously secretive banking forums including Wall Street Oasis have postulated that after pulling all-nighters at work for three days straight, German student Erhardt had a heart attack in the shower.
Put simply, if these claims are found to be true, Erhardt was literally worked to death in a company that placed wealth high above the welfare of a young intern. And while it is shocking to many that a 21-year-old novice, by industry standards, could be landed with a workload that required sleeping for just nine hours in 72, this is a far more common practice than people realise. The sheer desperation for young people to not only land a placement but then prove their worth – by any means necessary – is an endemic and highly disquieting state of affairs. How many interns need to die before the brutal reality of this culture sinks in?
When it comes to internships in the financial sector, candidates are put through numerous rigorous written applications, assessment centres and interviews before being offered a place. This military-esque process is just a taste of what’s in store when the real work begins: the heavy responsibility placed on newbies’ shoulders from day one; the ‘magic roundabout,’ where a car takes the intern home from the office at 7am, and then waits for them to shower and change before driving them right back into the lions’ den. To expect well paid, career-savvy adults to do this is one thing: to demand the same of those in their late teens or early twenties who have never held down a stable job is another entirely.