The Creative Society is an arts employment charity that helps young people into jobs in the creative and cultural industries.
The days of the unpaid intern could be numbered. The excellent blog Interns Anonymous said last week that it had received information that HMRC will very shortly issue guidelines recognising that internships qualify for the minimum wage. And not before time. The practice of expecting graduates to work unpaid for months before they can even be considered for paid work is rife in the creative sector, particularly in the media.
But even if HMRC delivers less than hoped, influential voices in the industry are backing the abolition of this 21st century slave labour. Clive Jones, the chairman of GMTV and of Skillset, the skills and training quango for the creative sector, is launching a code of conduct for use of interns. The broadcasters’ industry website, www.broadcastnow.co.uk reported yesterday that Jones was seeking to put an end to the system whereby employment in the media was “defined by who, and not what, you know”.
Skillset has therefore linked up with Creative & Cultural Skills, Arts Council England and Skillfast-UK, to devise a code which will make graduate internships in the creative industries as fair and open as possible. This includes limiting work experience placements to no more than 160 hours in total (about a month), paying graduate internships at least the minimum wage and ensuring that such schemes are advertised openly. The Code of Practice is open for comments until 3 December here and it’s well worth adding your experience either of using interns or being one.
What started as a way of giving school-leavers or graduates a quick burst of work experience to try out the reality of a chosen career has become an industry-wide system of exploitation and, increasingly, the only way into paid work. Worse, it privileges those with connections and sufficient funds to spend a good period of time after school or university without earning any money. Those who snap up the few rare paid jobs on offer are those who get to try out the newsroom or the design studio as interns. The ones who were well-connected in the first place. There really is no mysterious genetic explanation for why so many sons and daughters appear to follow their parents’ careers. The system of internships is institutionalising the old tradition of nepotism
If you want to see how very urgently the scourge of the modern internship needs reform take a look at another story today. The BBC website is reporting that some online job agencies are charging hundreds of pounds for introductions to employers offering internships. Meanwhile in the US wealthy parents buy internships for their children.