Archive for the 'Employment' Category

How paid staff view interns

Currently I am reading Ross Perlin’s book while coming to the end of two 3-month part-time internships, one with a tiny NGO and the other with an MP, and trying to figure out where I go from here.

I have come to the conclusion that doing more unpaid internships after this is not a good idea because it won’t look good on my CV: people will assume that I am from a privileged background and that daddy and mummy are providing for me so I can work for free, whereas the reality is that I studied hard as an undergraduate, secured generous funding to do a PhD and, post-PhD, have some of that funding saved up to enable me to explore different career options in an economic climate where every paid job I apply to has several hundred other applicants.

With regard to the assumptions people make about interns, my experience in the MP’s office is particularly amusing. On the one hand the office relies on a steady stream of interns doing identical work to paid employees. On the other hand, I have heard the paid employees making remarks that display resentment towards “rich kids who can afford to do unpaid internships.” These remarks were not directed at me, but were directed at a particular well-known journalist who is perceived to have got to her current position after 2 years of unpaid internships. Nevertheless it struck me as particularly foolish, clumsy or rude that these remarks were made in front of me when I have contributed so much to the work of the office, and when the work of the office relies on the contributions of at least one unpaid intern at all times.

On the whole, I have found both internships incredibly useful, giving me experience, knowledge and access that would otherwise be extremely hard to come by. On the whole, the paid staff I have been working with have been extremely patient, kind and generous with their time. They have gone out of their way to make sure that much of the work I am doing is related to the particular interests I specified at the outset, and they have also gone out of their way to help me with job applications, making recommendations for where and how to look for jobs, and where and how to apply. In both internships I have been either put in touch with contacts of paid employees who might be able to help me with specific jobs, or paid employees have put in a good word for me with someone they know in the office where I am applying for a paid position.

I believe that the main problem with internships is that in my experience what is happening is that an unpaid individual with no rights is doing identical work to a paid employee with full rights. Yes, an internship presents an opportunity for an individual to get a foot in the door. The danger is that in the current economic climate an internship may become the only way to get a foot in the door – and, as a result, become the norm. If the MP’s office stopped taking on interns they would simply have to reduce their workload or apply for an increase to the office budget to pay for more staff.

Ultimately this is what I believe they should do, but currently there is no incentive for them to do so. The state could provide that incentive. I believe that tighter regulation of internships is needed to ensure that unpaid interns are not doing identical work to paid employees, and that interns who are doing identical work to paid employees are paid the national minimum wage.


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.

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!

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?’

Where do you draw the line?

Almost all MPs hire interns. Hundreds, probably thousands, go through Parliament each year. This is a fact we have highlighted on these pages many times over the past year.

We have heard from interns feeling exploited and abused and those who had great experiences and managed to progress from being an intern to a researcher or a caseworker.

We don’t often highlight particular adverts here… but occasionally… just occasionally… something stands out as beyond the pale.

Let me introduce you to David Lidington MP. He is looking for an intern.

Continue reading ‘Where do you draw the line?’

Expenses-only engagements are illegal, say Employment Tribunals

The Employment Tribunals, sitting in Reading, have ruled that workers engaged on an expenses-only basis are entitled to payment at least in line with the national minimum wage, in addition to payment for the holiday they accrue.

The decision arises from a case brought by Nicola Vetta, a former art department assistant, against London Dreams Motion Pictures Ltd.

Read more here:

Interns Anonymous

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