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Are internships really working?

Are internships a way of helping people into work or exploiting young people for unpaid labour?

Well, both actually. There is no doubt that a CV with no work experience is invariably a weaker CV than one with work experience.

Whether working as an intern suffices depends on where that internship is. From a personal perspective I believe any work experience is better than none at all, however, some experience is worth more than others.

Sadly there is no doubt that some employers do see this as a source of cheap labour and pay little regard to the quality of the training or experience they are giving the employee. This can be severely demotivating for the interns themselves and in the worst cases can shake their confidence to the point that it damages their future career.

Unfortunately, the government-sponsored schemes do little to improve the situation. Whilst doubtless well intentioned, the current scheme is farmed out to various private sector bodies who are not regulated and must inevitably be putting their own commercial interests before those of the interns. It has always been so.

We have looked very closely at the new intern schemes being proffered by the government. I have to say that I have seen nothing to make me think the new system is much better. Once again private sector “colleges” are being invited to run these schemes and it is hard to believe that anything substantive has changed.

RHR's internship scheme

It is with this in mind that we at RHR decided to run our own scheme which launches this month.

We are now taking on paid interns (national minimum wage) for a four month contract. In return for working for the minimum wage, which I must say doesn’t sit comfortably with me, they receive the full training that our new trainee consultants or advertising account managers would receive.

We take the view that even if the intern ends their contract vowing never to work in an office again, the experience will be worthwhile. For they will be basing that decision on real life experience and not just on hearsay.

As for formal education, yes, that will be available at a properly accredited college if they stay on at the end of the contract. So time and government money won’t be wasted on private sector “pop up colleges” that offer qualifications akin to a passport back to the dole queue.

Our six interns placements are offered three times a year. We anticipate that one third will go on to be recruiters or account management people within our business. One third will be placed with clients, recovering the cost of employing them and one third will move on to pastures new but with some worthwhile experience.

It is of course early days yet but the signs are that this will be one of our most successful innovations.

Peter Burgess

Monday, 7 October 2013 at 4:30pm

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