Archive for March, 2010

Parliamentary reformers forget about Interns

IPSA (the Independent Parliamentary Standards Association) have today published their new scheme for Parliamentary Expenses, back-tracking on their earlier proposal to make the payment of parliamentary interns mandatory within Parliament.

IPSA have said they will create a standard contract for the employment of parliamentary interns, but they won’t include payment. This still seems at odds with National Minimum Wage Laws. Only last week the Low Pay Commission reported on non-compliance with minimum wage laws in politics.

Phil Willis MP, who has been an ardent campaigner for interns’ rights, said:

Once inflation, contributions to National Insurance and staff pensions have been taken into account, staffing budgets are effectively reduced under the new scheme. Not only have IPSA failed to make payment for interns mandatory, but by reducing the resources available they have made it even less likely than MPs will be able to do so.

So not only have they decided not to comply with the law - they are also reducing the opportunities for young people to gain access to parliament.

Breaking News: +++ Low Pay Commission Reports on Unpaid Internships +++

The evidence we received on unpaid work experience indicates that there is systematic abuse of interns, with a growing number of people undertaking ‘work’ but excluded from the minimum wage.

It is becoming increasingly commonplace in certain sectors, particularly the media, entertainment industry and in politics, for employers to demand a period of unpaid work experience as a means of getting into the industry. The Government’s Fair Access to the Professions report highlighted the issue of unpaid internships and how they serve to limit career choices to those who can afford to work unpaid and those who live near London.

We further encourage BIS as part of this work to engage directly with the sectors in which lengthy unpaid internships have become the norm. We invite BIS to present its proposed strategy to us by the summer.

The Low Pay Commission Report can be read here.

More to follow…

Spotlight on the Manchester Graduate Internship Programme

With the Government putting increasing emphasis on unpaid internships as the answer to graduate unemployment we thought we would take a look at a successful scheme run by the University of Manchester, which links up employers and students with PAID internship schemes offering graduate level work.

I certainly wish the scheme had been better advertised while I was at Manchester – because they have managed to get 65 students in placements this year, paying at least minimum wage. Industries offering internships range from engineering and lab work to IT and marketing.

The emphasis, says Anne Milligan, the programme coordinator, is on “helping small businesses access talented graduates” and making sure they are offering “graduate level work”. Inspections are done to make sure interns are not making cups of tea or spending six months photocopying.

This is the way a graduate internships scheme should be done, and benefits both the graduates, and small businesses in the region.

The scheme was dreamt up in 2008 with 42 placements, and is steadily growing. Already this year 5 grads have been offered permanent positions. Who can argue with that?

If anyone approaches them with an unpaid position they tell them where to go. Anne described unpaid work as “dreadful” and “devaluing what graduates can offer”. Three cheers for Manchester University Careers Service!

Cut the costs of events: hire slaves!

I saw your website on the BBC news and would like to share my story:

After graduating in 2008 I began an internship with a London events organiser, which was advertised as a ’1-3 month position’. I started this placement in December 2008, and was told I would receive £100 per month in expenses. At the end of the month I went home for a week for Christmas. I strongly feel, both then and now, that I shouldn’t have to justify my reasons for deciding during that week that I could no longer afford to continue with the placement. In the New Year I called my ‘employer’ to tell them as such, and found myself apologising and grovelling for having ‘let them down’. A few days later I sent an email asking what the arrangements were for receiving my expenses for December. I was told that I would not be able to receive any expenses as I had not completed the internship.

At the time I was upset and humiliated, and tried to forget the experience. I now realise that, under law, this amounted to a three-month contract and I should have been paid the National Minimum Wage. Instead, I was exploited at a time when I was helpless and vulnerable, and was not able to stand up for my rights.

The Romans found that slaves were a great way to cut the cost of their decadent lifestyle

Shooting yourself in the foot?

An Event on Film and Television Internships

Date: Thursday 18th March
Time: 7:00pm
Location: The University of London Union, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HY (nearest tube stations: Goodge Street & Russell Square)

In the wake of the recent London Dreams case, which retrospectively awarded an unpaid intern the National Minimum Wage for the hours she worked on a feature film, there has been much debate within the industry about the effect this decision will have. Does the verdict represent the long-overdue protection desperately needed by the industry’s most vulnerable workers, or the death of creativity and collaboration which often provides a stepping stone for those who are new to the industry? Should it be viewed as a victory or a disaster..? 

Continue reading ‘Shooting yourself in the foot?’

Which? route to take?

There are loads of people with horrible experiences as interns but my story is different. I graduated with a history degree from the LSE last year and spent 3 months searching for an entry-level job. I have some work experience but not really a lot and given the economic situation I wasn’t very optimistic. I didn’t apply for any internships because they were mostly unpaid and although my parents proposed to support me financially I decided to try it on my own. I became really desperate and applied for any jobs even those for which I was clearly over-qualified and which, to be honest, I’m quite sure I would have dropped out fast.

Continue reading ‘Which? route to take?’

I eat Interns for Breakfast

Social Breakfast is a great new website which promotes youth engagement with politicians and industry figures.

When we heard they were interviewing a Lib Dem candidate we just had to ask his views on unpaid interns. Nick Radford replied to our questions thus:

You can’t employ somebody who doesn’t get paid…We do have interns working on our campaign but…it’s not an employment situation.

There’s a valid concern that there are some people who employ interns and…the employer expects them to perform as an employee. If that’s the arrangement then it’s wrong.

He concludes:

[The] education system is not equipping young people with the skills that they need to be employed.

What do you think? You can check out the full interview over at the Social Breakfast website. Next up for the Social Breakfast team is Green MEP Caroline Lucas. We will be asking her about interns as well.

Nickelodeon UK : Bloody Brilliant

One of the few companies still engaged in the intern world in a big way in the UK TV business is Nickelodeon.

Not only are their offices actually a lot of fun to work in, but having worked as a paid intern there for a few months now, I can safely say that they give you responsibilities that are challenging, exciting, interesting and stimulating. They pay almost all of their long-term interns I think, and the short termers get a great deal of good, relevant, and exciting experience mingling with celebs and such in a positive way.

I just can’t speak highly enough of Nickelodeon as an employer, especially for interns. Whilst I hear horror stories from my intern pals every day, my work feels like a gift - It’s just the right balance and there is a great deal of support and help provided to get you on your feet.

You put in the work for this company and they most certainly reward you for it.

Secret London

Has anyone been invited to join the Facebook Group Secret London? I have, about 12 times. It’s a community for Londoners to share the secrets of the city and has attracted 180,000 members in a couple of weeks.

What’s this got to do with internships? Well, according to the Times, it was part of a great facebook race Saatchi and Saatchi, the ad-agency, created for its potential interns.

Saatchi announced that its 10 unpaid six-week placements would be given to those candidates who successfully jumped through a sequence of ever-higher hoops in a process that has been described as “a cross between Big Brother and The Apprentice”.

The first “challenge” was to create a Facebook group with as many members as possible in less than a month. Online carnage ensued as 800 rival groups sprang up with a variety of names that included innumerable variations on “Let’s help Haiti”.

Tiffany Philippou, who left Bristol University six months ago, was one of them.

Remember, all this is just for an unpaid intern placement. Astounding. Especially when only 4 of the 10 interns chosen are likely to get jobs.

Proud of your time at Proud?

I wanted to write about my experience doing an internship at Proud Gallery in Camden and Charing Cross, London. I was supposed to be there for 3 months full time but only stuck it out for a month. They use their interns as free labour, not even paying travel expenses. I wasted so much time and money on travel at this place. The jobs I did included cleaning the kitchen, cleaning the gallery, painting the walls, and scrubbing the outside of the building. I did do some research but apart from that there was alot of re-doing press books which didn’t even need to be done. It was as though, they were trying to make us feel like we were being given constructive things to do as well as all the cleaning, but there was no need for it. I even had to travel around London collecting and dropping off deliveries (at my own expense!). There was a time when I had to pick up a huge, very heavy box and they refused to pay for a taxi, so I had to lug it back from the other side of London on the tube, throwing my back out.

The managers were rude, they never spoke directly to me, even when I was standing right beside them, and would only give us instructions through the ‘head intern’ who was in charge of us.

I am really writing so that no-one else has to go through this. I didn’t meet one intern who was happy with their experience and even some of the ‘paid’ staff were only paid £15 a day, (for a full days work). I was so angry about all of this at the time. I learnt absolutely nothing working there. When it came to my last day, I just left, no one said goodbye or anything. They have so many interns rolling over constantly, I was just another in a sea of slaves for them.

Hope this helps anyone else come to a decision if they are thinking about working for Proud: DON’T!!!!!

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