A step towards a fairer society would be to have paid internships as the only type of internship available

In a world where such an endeavour is considered more of a requirement than an added opportunity, we need to make them available to everyone regardless of income. In essence, paid internships should replace the method of having unpaid, underappreciated and unused interns everywhere.

This of course doesn’t mean that paid interns are always appreciated or used; you hear countless accounts of interns wasting away idly in a corner with an empty word document up, flicking mindlessly through their ex’s Facebook profile. So, alongside a shift in terms of financial appreciation for the young people looking to get a foot-up in the sector of their choice, there also needs to be a wholescale shift in our collective mentality towards interns. Young people need to be given opportunities; an intern should be integrated into a business so as to make the venture worthwhile for both the company and the temporary staff member, otherwise the whole shebang is fairly pointless. Business is about risks after all, bring your interns in on important tasks, and actually teach them.

I was once an unpaid intern, but only for two days a week as I couldn’t afford any longer and had to work another job at the same time. The experience I had was productive for me, and it was agreed that, once I’d familiarised myself with the way things were, my contributions were supposedly deemed worthwhile and I relaxed into the role as time passed. I would recommend becoming an intern, it gives you an insight into a career you may be considering, leading to you either wanting to pursue a similar avenue or never going near a role like that again. An internship is a learning curve for both the intern and the company, and there should without doubt be a financial transaction for the intern’s temporary labour services. It may be harder for small businesses to fork out for an intern, but they should really consider this before taking someone on. An unpaid internship is both unpaid time and labour, and is quite simply, not fair.

Paying an intern reduces the privilege gap, making higher positions more attainable for all. Considering how certain employers don’t even look at grades when looking to employ people, we are all aware that there is gross inequality in the job market. It is fairly obvious that richer individuals are the only ones able to sacrifice their time for lengthy unpaid internships, and are hence infinitely better suited to the absurdly unfair demands that many companies place on their interns.

I have a friend who believes that ‘Internships are for the old world, not the new’, and this is an interesting point. Where internships have essentially become mandatory for anyone looking to break into a career in a financially salient sector, i.e., in an office, on a computer with excel, etc., we need to make sure that the skills we learn are transferred into the evolving job market. Are all internships forever going to be limited to an office in a company motivated by profit, or will the job market shift to a Russell Brand utopia of collectivised, community-focused schemes (sounds pretty nice doesn’t it)? More internships are also happening in the digital world, in media and in fashion and photography, is this a fad or is this where the world is headed?

What is most important is that internships remain relevant. According to TIME magazine, ‘In the trade guilds of 11th century England, a worker would actually pay to learn alongside a “master” who would teach him a skill like printmaking’. So when you see that intern stumbling over a stapler, trying to figure out the printer, don’t just cynically frown and doubt the ability of the next generation to work anything aside from an Instagram account. Give them a hand and make the whole thing worthwhile, as this is how we have been passing on the knowledge of our trades for centuries. Oh and, make sure they’re paid!

 

Sources:

http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1913474,00.html

http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/27/intern-history-apprenticeship-leadership-careers-jobs.html