Archive for the 'Public Sectpr' Category

What the hell, NHS?

Someone brought this to our attention - an advert for an unpaid psychology assistant position - click here for the full text. You need to commit to two days work per week for 6 months but NOTE, they will “look favourably on people who could make a greater commitment”. So you mean you will look favourably on people who can BUY A JOB? For goodness sake, I know the economy is in the shit and the government has less than no money but the NHS budget is ring fenced, you think they could bloody well shell out £6,000 for a part time assistant position. If only to adhere to NMW Law. 

How’s about this for a good internship?

I wanted to share my experience of internships, for once it’s positive!

My story: after a period of indecision over my future following University along with lots of travelling abroad, I got an internship working for a group of public sector bodies. To give you an overview, they wanted to compile a report looking at how the region could adapt to the effects of climate change (increased flooding, higher temperatures, higher rainfall etc). They could’ve hired an environmental consultant who would’ve cost ££££, instead they wanted to help graduates get some experience, so they got 3 interns in.

I was given a set project: researching and writing case studies for the report over a 5 month period on 15 hrs a week (ed: this works out about 10 quid an hour). In return I got industry contacts, constant support, career advice, free training, goals for the project and they let me lead on organising a workshop for victims of flooding. What was even better was they paid me £3,000 for the whole thing and I worked from home, keeping costs down.

My view is we both got a lot of this arrangement. They got a solid piece of work at a low price and I got not just a job, but a career: I’ve since gone on to get full time employment in the climate change and environmental field off the back of this work.

It’s a fascinating area to work in and I’d never have thought of it as a potential role for me if it weren’t for this internship. Support, a small salary and supervision over a short time period is all graduates need, it’s not difficult. I want to encourage employers to see that internships can be incredibly productive for both parties; they just need to stop thinking that they can exploit the good will, hard work and knowledge of young people looking for a start in their lives.

Social Mobility – rich platitudes as usual

A fellow campaigner with bags of public sector knowledge reminds us that ‘Whitehall’ is not where the problem lies…

One thing we should not let the Coalition do is confuse Whitehall with Government. We all know that within Parliament there is a saturation of people working as unpaid interns. Don’t let this terminology of ‘Whitehall’ lead you to believe that this practice will be stopped by the new social mobility initiative.

What the Coalition Government is proposing is an end to ‘informal’ internships within the Civil Service. Yes, you know, that place so rife with unpaid interns that erm… you might struggle to even track one down. From my few years’ experience in the Civil Service I can tell you that the one place unpaid internships are not expected as pre-requisite experience to gaining a job  is actually the Civil Service. I knew a couple of civil servants who had their 14 year old kids in to witness an office-environment during their schools’ work-experience schemes. They witnessed their parents’ often in un-glamorous roles, for a week, but this is hardly the world of prestigious social networking Clegg appears to have been referring to. The truth is ‘Whitehall’ is unpaid intern free.

The Civil Service has been at pains for many many years to recruit through ‘fair and open’ competition. Often to the extreme that previous work experience is put second place to the over-arching importance of answering competency based questions. In practice this means so long as you can show good examples of ‘communication’ or ‘organisational skills’ you would stand a good chance in a recruitment exercise. The Civil Service FastStream also offers a completely unbiased psychometric testing route for graduates showing exceptional verbal and numerical reasoning skills, followed by several rounds of testing to join the fast-track management scheme. Albeit only approximately 3% of applicants make it as far as actually securing a job, but nobody could argue that anywhere in the process is there inherent unfairness. Certainly there is nothing based on family connections, aside from the fact that a good education would hopefully have equipped you with the necessary skills. The only unfairness, and I would like to put my claim in, is that you have to be very good at psychometric testing.

The government is proposing to merely continue and extend a programme called Summer Diversity Internships, a paid internship scheme that existed under the previous administration, to give people from BAME groups and disabled people an opportunity to experience government work and gain transferrable skills. The government has announced that this scheme will now also be from people of socially disadvantaged backgrounds, and extend to people of younger age groups as well. This scheme has always paid interns and will continue to do so. In fact I remember asking a fellow young graduate, your average white British male, how he had got hold of this great well-paid opportunity, “dyslexia!” he exclaimed. Aside from him I also knew a very bright enthusiastic 17 year old. He came to our central government department via the Social Mobility Foundation who do great work in setting up internships for gifted young people from low-income backgrounds. When he spoke of aspirations to work in politics I advised him to seek MPs internships when he could, knowing the chances for someone with a lack of social connections were few and far-between. I also knew the irony of recommending unpaid work to someone from a low-income background. He was off to study Politics and History. I also knew that, having studied the same subject myself, I was about to be made redundant in the first wave of the public sector cuts and it was hard to be recommending a humanities degree in the current economic climate.

It seems a great irony to be encouraging internships in the very sector the government is currently shrinking, and in which an indefinite recruitment freeze still exists. The government is keen to stress that these savings have been at least £120m and have therefore contributed to paying off the deficit.

The government needs to start being honest with the youth of today-  real social change might occur if this internship scheme really referred to ‘Parliament.’

A tale of two internships

It should be obvious but if you need convincing, here’s why you should pay interns:

Paid Internship in Public Sector

I started an internship in a central government department 3 months after graduation; I applied for the position through the Graduate talent pool. This internship was for a 3 month period (later extended to 6) and paid c. £24,000 pa (+ pension & standard civil service benefits). I really enjoyed my time there and felt that I learnt a lot; I was entrusted with important tasks and even given the opportunity to lead on certain high profile projects.

The team I worked with were very friendly and supportive. I was consistently involved in team and group meetings which enabled me to gain a greater understanding of my role and the workings of my team and the department. I was provided with clear guidance on what was expected of me, and was even supported in attending training courses and shadowing ministers/civil servants.

Unfortunately, I was told that, whilst the team would have liked to have kept me on, the fact that I was not recruited through standard civil service methods, and ongoing budget cuts and headcount reductions, made this impossible. Nonetheless, I feel that this (PAID) internship was incredibly valuable, and that it was an excellent example of all that internships should be about.

Unpaid Internship in Private Sector

After this I moved to London and sought full time employment, or just temping work. I was unsuccessful and after a few months I was offered an unpaid 3 month internship at a small private company in the centre of London. I have been in this position for about a month now. My transport expenses are paid and I am allowed a couple of pounds a day towards lunch.

The bulk of my work consists of simple administrative tasks but it obviously has a value as much of it is presented to clients. I have not been given particularly clear guidance on what is expected of me, nor on best practice within the sector. I have been repeatedly left out of team meetings and I feel that the opportunities to gain experience and improve my skills are very limited. I have found that I am considerably less motivated in this roll than in my paid internship, where I felt far more valued. Despite the fact that I am now haemorrhaging money living in London, I feel that I need to persist with this internship to demonstrate both private sector experience and commitment; even though the development prospects are limited and the employment possibilities virtually nil.

Soon after completing this internship the money I saved from the Civil Service internship will be gone, and I will not be able to continue living in London. I have continued to apply for paid positions whilst in this second internship, with no success. I am doubtful that this unpaid internship will have been worth the expense; it adds little to my CV. I am unsure what I will do if I am unable to find paid employment soon.

Metropolitan Police Report: First Year of training to become an unpaid internship

Our friends over at Graduate Fog have just brought our attention to this shocking and scandalous story from the Standard and the Telegraph:

As part of an overhaul of police recruitment – to save millions a year in training costs – Scotland Yard is considering making new recruits in London work as volunteer special constables for at least a year before they can apply to become full-time paid Met officers.

This saving of £12 million a year reveals the shocking state of our public finances. Who are the next generation of police officers? Only those who can afford to work for free for a year! Incredible. Absolutely incredible.

One thing is clear. This is a sign of things to come. If you want a job in the public sector APPLY NOW before this becomes the norm.

It’s one thing for small think-tanks or charities to employ unpaid interns… but for an organisation as big as the POLICE FORCE do away with paid training. We are lost for words.

This is a story which will rumble on and on and on. We haven’t heard the last of this one.

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.


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 disclaim all liability for such content to the fullest extent permitted by law. If you have any queries please email us.

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