In this present day and age many universities, businesses and agencies are looking to hire people or have students that already have experience in that industry and who have already worked in a similar environment. For many young people this leads to searching for placements or internships.
I am still currently looking for a 12 month placement which is part of my PR degree at Leeds Metropolitan University and whilst a few students on my course have been lucky to gain a year placement in the industry, many have struggled, including myself.
Many of my fellow course mates have complained about how tough it is to keep in contact with these companies and their employees. I understand that they are extremely busy but at the same time it’s very disheartening to receive a reply, get your hopes up and then never to hear back again. Others, including myself, have faced the very public issue of unpaid internships and placements.
In my opinion I have no issue with the non-paid short-term placements I have completed in the PR industry as they have taught me more than I could have learnt sitting in a classroom or lecture theatre. My problem lies with the placements lasting longer than 2 months and the large organisations that are worth millions of pounds yet only offer unpaid internships.
I recently applied to a large worldwide brand in London for a year placement and was invited for not one but two interviews during which they spoke about all the experience I would gain whilst there for 12 months, for example working London Fashion Week. All of this sounded amazing. Then they finally dropped in that unfortunately the placement wasn’t paid and that they would only cover my expenses. Currently I am a student living in Leeds and my hometown is 2 hours North of London therefore commuting just wasn’t possible. If I had accepted the placement I would have found myself working Monday to Friday, probably more than 9-5 for 12 months and with no wage. This I find appalling.
Unfortunately, there a no laws in place governing the rights of interns but it is a large ongoing debate between professionals and the government.
The Fashion industry is said to be the worst offender for unpaid interns. Many fashion brands have come under scrutiny including Stella McCartney, who were criticized for their treatment of interns. One intern voiced her anger on Interns Anonymous claiming the atmosphere there ‘was toxic’.
I believe placements are not only beneficial for the students but also to those offering the placement. Students, like me, I believe can bring fresh new ideas and their own vibrant and eager to learn personalities to the business.
Let me know if you’ve had any experiences with unpaid work placements and feel free to share your opinion on this topic!