This article talks about the increasingly common practice of expecting young people to work without pay to gain experience.
I am quite clear that I come down on the side of banning it as a practice. If we claim to be a meritocracy (which I think we do) then making certain jobs open only to those who can fund free working is unfair and should not be allowed. I think that there is also a good point in the article about the minimum wage!
However, whilst this may be seen as a modern phenomenon and one which is spreading among the more popular jobs (nearly called them professions J), it has a long history as I can recall in my younger days that barristers (and I don't mean coffee makers) had to study and then work for a pittance and be paid in arrears such that most of that profession came from those who were able to subsidise the early part of the training. A quick look now suggests that this has changed with pupillages funded, so here is one example where action has already been taken.
An alternative would be for the government to sponsor this year, much as they do with student loans - however I am wary of this because, as with student loans, there would still be a temptation for those from more disadvantaged backgrounds to run up large debts.
What benefit is there to the companies? To avoid minimum wage issues there should be no immediate gain to them, so presumably it is about seeing candidates ahead of time; they could always develop better recruitment procedures - after all if they are after talent then at present they are ruling a significant proportion of the population out.