Archive for the 'Debate' Category

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.

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.

Hey intern, get me a coffee and stop whingeing

An interesting article in the Observer this morning by Barbara Ellen…

Does anyone care, I mean really care, about interns? They’ve been complaining recently about being exploited, underpaid (if paid at all), and generally treated as despised dogsbodies.

There is even a website called Interns Anonymous, full of interns complaining about being exploited, underpaid, treated as dogsbodies, etc. On IA, some of the whinges are so lengthy and self-pitying one can’t help but wonder if they might have got on a little better if they’d poured all that energy into the internship.

Of course we are delighted that debate about internships has been highlighted in the national press once again! Read the full article here.

A little bit of media coverage

Never shy of sticking our heads above the parapet, Interns Anonymous has been involved in two media features in as many days.

We helped with the research for this great New Statesman article by Rowenna Davis.

Charlie Sonnex works the night shift at Sainsbury’s. Last year, he worked next to Andy Coulson, the Conservatives’ director of communications, as an intern at the party’s headquarters in Westminster. He wanted to stay on, but after nine months of working unpaid, he couldn’t afford it. “All the interns there had rich parents and savings, so I guess the office just had enough applications to keep it going.

Sound familiar? If so why not take our survey for parliamentary interns?

The NS isn’t adverse to hiring unpaid interns itself. The phrase “run on free labour” has crossed our path before. Good on them for the publishing this article though.

We can also be seen discussing internships and social mobility on an episode of Working Lunch (no longer presented by Adrian Chiles, much to my disappointment). See Tuesday’s episode, about 8 minutes in.

Does an internship lead to a job: new survey for all ex-interns

Have you been an intern? Did you get a job or are you unemployed? Are you trapped in an intern cycle?

Whatever state you’re in, if you have been an intern in any sector, please do this survey! Click here to take survey, or visit our surveys page.

Education Secretary champions Internships – but who can afford them?

Via our friends at the Arts Group, David Lammy thinks internships are the way to solve graduate unemployment:

In response to growing concerns over graduate employment (or lack thereof) David Lammy championed Internships and volunteering as access routes into jobs:

“Of course students may be concerned, which is why we are working hard to show that real opportunities are available to them including work, further study, volunteering and Internships. Internships are great way for graduates to kick start their careers by gaining the valuable skills and work experience at a time when they face a more competitive job market.”

Yes David, ‘a great way’ for those who can afford to be exploited by organizations violating the National Minimum Wage. Thanks a bunch. Welcome to the only government who simultaneously claims to champion social mobility whilst also using unpaid work as a strategy for streaming graduates for recruitment.

Can’t really argue with that… 


Coming back to haunt a newspaper near you

Spotted in the Telegraph by an eagle-eyed Dina Rickman (Dina – if you read this please write to us with your own intern experiences!) is a horrible article by journalist Celia Walden. She describes a week of torture dished out to her ‘whipping boy’ work experience-r… retribution, it seems, for her own work placements.

Once Ed had finished alphabetising a decade’s worth of business cards for me, booked reservations at the Ivy (posing as my PA) and spent an afternoon scouring London for a Tintin desk diary (A5, Ed, not A4 – back out you go, my boy), a co-worker took him home to clean out her bins.

I’m tempted to write this off as payback for the years of humiliation I endured at the hands of men during my salad days, but I suspect it’s just more fun abusing a boy – something about that Estella/Pip dynamic, perhaps.

Still, my memories of work placements aren’t exactly edifying. There was that stint on a TV listings magazine, where the boys would routinely order me to stand up on a chair and tweak the aerial. “A bit more to the left,” they’d cry out. “Nope – to the right. Now back to the left.” This would go on for some time, until one day the editor walked in on a particularly prolonged session, ordered me down from the chair and delivered a hushed rebuke – from which the only words I could make out were “Harassment Act”.

Does Ed deserve this? Is it all part of the learning curve? Or does Celia deserve a slap in the face?

Slave Labour

We have come across a great Channel 4 News clip from a couple of years ago. It’s about a young film maker called Danny Dewsbury who was exploited by the Labour Party. He spent a week travelling around the country filming cabinet ministers but wasn’t paid a penny. He wasn’t learning or shadowing – and what makes it more ironic is how proud the ministers he filmed were of the Minimum Wage.

Tessa Jowell, in one interview with him, even has a pop at “scams” whereby young people are used as “cheap labour”.

Nick Clegg announces youth jobs pledge

One of his pledges concerns internships:


We will support young people while they get valuable work experience by paying anyone undertaking an internship a ‘training allowance’ of £55 a week (£5 more than JSA). This will help employers who want to offer young people work experience but cannot afford to pay them. We envisage that young people will do this for up to 3 months and receipt of the allowance will be dependent on attendance.

Is this the answer? Or another politician using ‘internships’ as a vote-winner without really knowing anything about them. I know many interns who already get £55 a week in expenses. What they really want is National Minimum Wage.

Government to create National Internship Database

Responding to middle class fears that their children are being shut out from many professions (Law, Finance, Accountancy, the Media etc), the government has announced the creation of a National Internship Database (NID) – a one-stop-shop for every unemployed graduate’s needs.

Quite where this differs from previous announcements about a national internship scheme is anyone’s guess, and I am sure none of the work placements proposed have taken into account the problems we have mentioned on this site.

  • How does creating a national database of internships solve the problem that most will be located in London and therefore only open to those who live there already or can afford to live there for months without pay?
  • Does this policy address the fact that most internships break current employment laws in that they don’t pay NMW?
  • If NMW isn’t paid… how are prospective interns going to afford these placements? Financed by a bankrupt state? Unlikely. I suspect they will follow the Milburn suggestion of making loans available for graduates. But with no guarantee of a job at the end of it, and not even an assurance of proper training, would this be £2000 well spent?

“Internship” – formally a buzzword for employers to justify cutting an entry-level position, now the inspiration for a policy dreamt up by clueless politicians. But that’s just my opinion.

Are internships the answer to our problems?

Work experience or work exploitation?

A common theme in the experiences featured on this website is the tension between offering opportunities to young people and exploiting them.

The University of Westminster has waded into this debate, by publishing a survey showing the vast majority of university students in London feel exploited during their work experience placements.  

The headline figures are striking.

  • 71% of students said they felt unfulfilled by their work experience placements. Common tasks cited were filing, scanning, photocopying, answering telephones, and making tea.
  • 60% of those interviewed said that their work experience was not beneficial in any way. 
  • 90% of those surveyed had worked for free, and of those, 77% were not compensated for their expenses.

Hardly indicative of a system that equips young people with the experience needed to get jobs in a recession.  One student commented, “I have done several placements, all have been unpaid. Of these placements, two promised to reimburse my expenses- one took 2 months to fulfil this and the other never returned my calls after promising £5 per day for my full-time placement.”

Despite the fact that this was probably in clear breach of the NMW regulations, tardiness in paying meager expenses is terrible. Even if you work for free, you deserve to be treated with respect.

Next Page »


Interns Anonymous

We want this website to be a forum for interns to share their experiences and discuss the ethics of unpaid employment. Most importantly, we want this site to be a place where YOU can tell us your story.

We are now on Twitter

  • Discussing internships on BBC World Service later today. #internships 4 days ago

Survey for parliamentary interns

Are you or have you been an unpaid parliamentary intern? If yes then please take our anonymous survey on the experiences of Westminster interns. You can find the survey by clicking the ‘survey’ link at the top of the website.

Disclaimer

Interns Anonymous accept no responsibility for the contents of the blog, comments or any other content on this site that is posted or provided by third parties. This website is designed to act as a forum for interns to share experiences and opinions about their work, therefore, we will not censor opinions we do not agree with. The opinions stated in blog contributions do not represent those of Interns Anonymous. We will refrain from mentioning organisations and individuals by name. We disclaim all liability for such content to the fullest extent permitted by law. If you have any queries please email us.