This guest post from Carly Smith is part of The Student Perspective series – a set of posts contributed by future stars of the comms industry.
There has been an ongoing debate as to whether interns should be paid for their work or not. Being one of these interns I thought it would be interesting to give an insight as to what I thought…
If you speak to anyone within PR or the University you are told that experience is needed when applying for jobs. It is therefore necessary for graduates to have a balance between education and real life experience. However this is easier said than done.
For some students their work experience is not a pleasant experience. They spend the entire time being the office ‘dogsbody’ – making tea, photocopying and washing up. Of course we understand that when we graduate we won’t jump to the top and be shouting orders but what do we gain? Fortunately my experience has been a positive one, I work on specific areas and am given ‘real’ work to do which benefits both myself and the business.
I think it is important to establish with a company, before the internship commences, what you want to get out of the experience. And don’t forget an interview is there to see if you are compatible for each other. I was very conscious when I went to the interview for my placement that the company I approached had probably been approached by many other individuals asking for the same thing. That is why I never even considered getting paid for it because I wouldn’t want to price myself out of the market.
So how much is fair?
Should it be the same as the person whose position you are experiencing? Enough to cover your travel and living costs? Minimum wage? A ‘token’ for your hard work? It sounds clichéd but it depends.
I am of the opinion that you pay to attend University where you learn and in your work placement you are gaining their experience and knowledge. Plus it is only for the short term, this experience you gain will help you get a paid job at a later date, maybe with the same company. It is also important to remember that the employer is taking time out of their working day to supervise you on projects and mentor you along your journey. It is mutually beneficial for both parties.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggested that interns should be paid £2.50 per hour. This is less than minimum wage and would provide a benchmark for employers. It would also make placements increasingly available as a choice to less well off individuals who otherwise might not be able to take part. But would this set amount make the grey area clearer or would internships disappear because employers didn’t want to pick up the costs? It also raises the issue as to whether there would become ‘unofficial interns’ who still wouldn’t be paid.
10 Yetis Public Relations Agency in Gloucester are setting a good example for others by paying their interns. Andy Barr, Managing Director, said:
“As soon as someone has been part of a team for longer than two weeks, they begin contributing towards the bottom line of a business and therefore they deserve to be rewarded and compensated for their efforts. I don’t think anyone should have to work without payment, as it is both degrading and unfair.”
It would be interesting to hear others thoughts on this debate. Are you an employer who takes interns? Do you pay them a wage or not? Are you taking part in an internship? Do you think interns should be paid?
Carly Smith is currently in between her 2nd and 3rd year at the University of Lincoln studying Marketing and Public Relations. She has a work placement at a local PR agency one day a week on an unpaid basis.