Seven Internships and Counting

Internships have a good side and a bad side. They are on one hand, an opportunity, an insight, an easy way into massive organisations, opportunities to make brilliant contacts and to work on important and interesting projects. But then, they can also be demoralising, dominated by tea making, checking that your boss’ invoices are in precise alphabetical order and sitting online, waiting for the day to end…

 

 That is what I am in fact doing now. I am an intern. This is my first, second…hold on…seventh internship. I’ve had some great experiences. I worked at a newspaper for two weeks, had an article published on their front cover. That was a wonderful internship. One of my best achievements in the workplace without a doubt.

 

Not so recently, I worked for a pressure group as a campaigns intern. I was involved in the co-ordination of a national event, the Convention on Modern Liberty. I wrote blog articles, reviewed books and did research. A useful and interesting experience.

 

I worked in Parliament for a conservative MP. I did clerical work all week. Filed cabinets, did photocopying…somehow, I found it fascinating. Because it was a week in Parliament, the people I worked with were great. They made me feel welcome, were friendly and I made some useful contacts.

 

But then, there is a flip side. I won’t mention the people I currently intern for, but I am bored. The people are nice, but not as friendly. They don’t give me interesting tasks to do. What will I say I have achieved? Nothing. I haven’t achieved a thing. This has been a dull month.

 

Internships can be absolutely vital, and certainly have a place in society but there are problems with them. It is entirely pointless to have someone come in for two weeks if it will have no useful benefit. That is, if someone goes into a workplace and they have nothing for them to do aside from filing and photocopying, then what is the point? What skills can you learn from that? You haven’t done any productive work for them, they haven’t had any need for any work to be done. So who benefits exactly?

 

Oh yeah, the references argument. Well…actually. If company A has an intern for two weeks at a time, throughout the year, that is 26 interns a year. If company A happens to be a TV company, and there are say, hundreds of TV companies, you could reasonably expect there to be thousands of interns a year being employed in this industry. Will those interns all stand a significant chance of getting somewhere as the result of the internship? No. The market has become saturated, the numbers taking internships renders their contact useless, as about 3000 others have similar references. The relevance of this has become diluted.

 

Then there is the money issue. There are people who can afford to do internships week upon week upon week, because they have rich parents or have had committed to saving up a substantial amount. They can spend the entire summer doing this. I couldn’t, though I am able to afford to do shorter-term internships. Some can’t afford to do internships because they need to earn more money than I did.

 

This demonstrates the benefits and pitfalls of the internship. I believe there is a sensible solution to this problem. I believe a company should not be allowed to simply have interns every week. I believe if a company needs interns that frequently, then they should hire a full time member of staff, rather than taking the ‘cheap’ way out by exploiting our need for experience. A company should only be allowed to employ interns for say, two or three months a year.

 

Second, the amount this government spends on education is half that of its health budget and a third of its work and pensions budget. The public sector wage bill stands at about £150 billion each year. I think you see where I’m going…whilst the government is happy doling out pay rises to MPs and vastly increasing the numbers of unproductive civil servants and paying for the health treatment of those who aren’t even UK citizens, what help is there for the hard working, enterprising intern? Rather than fork out shedloads of money for people who simply ‘don’t want to work’, I’d like to see a shift in the budget to take away maybe a few million (which is peanuts in terms of their almost 10 figure budget) for those of us who are working hard for a future without pay. Companies could apply for government grants for interns, and pay us reasonable hourly wages. I worked at a pressure group and they didn’t pay interns as they couldn’t afford it - there was nothing immoral in what they were doing, so it would be unfair to ask them to take on the burden of an intern’s salary.

 

At the end of the day, if you totted up what interns added to the economy and what benefits cheats and those with lazy-itis take away from the economy, I think it is justifiable to give us some of their money. It would also allow the poor to do these internships, and would be a great investment in Britain’s future. And it would also encourage some of those recently laid off to spend a few weeks earning money in a sector they’d never previously considered. This could be an innovative and cost effective solution not just for young interns and the poor, but the government and country as a whole.

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