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Too many internships are still being offered as favours to friends and family rather than on the basis of ability, according to Alan Milburn, the ex-minister who has reported on social mobility for the coalition government.Writing in Graduate Market Trends, the quarterly publication of the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, Milburn said that despite the higher profile that has been given recently to internships, placements in attractive sectors were still too often not open to fair competition.“I’m concerned at the number of unpaid internships and informal ‘friends and family schemes’ that are still common in some sectors,” writes Milburn. “The evidence that I have seen shows that, despite some examples to the contrary, connection rather than ability continues to be the key to getting an internship. This is both unfair and bad for business.”He recommended three principles for internship programmes: that they provide meaningful experience and not merely cheap labour, that they are accessible to all through transparent recruitment, and that they are paid enough to be viable for those without private means of support.Getting behind the recent Wilson review on business-university co-operation, Milburn added: “There should be a sector wide agreement that no university careers service will offer unpaid internships. In general, this will mean that the employer should pay. In a small number of cases, where there are outstanding internship opportunities but the employer is simply unable to provide funding, then universities should use their Offa funds to support eligible students. Employers need graduates, and so the sector could send a powerful message that would help move this forward.”The CIPD recently released updated guidance entitled ‘Internships That Work’ giving employers tips on best practice for offering internships. It has also produced a work experience charter which the employment minister said should become a 'kitemark for quality' among employers.