Internships: opportunity or cheap labour?

Talk June 8, 2011 7:00 PM


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The explosion of the internship in the past 10 years has begun to raise some serious questions about the implications for a generation expected to work wage-free in order to move onto the career ladder.

Ross Perlin, an ex intern himself and the author of Intern Nation will be at the Frontline Club to take part in a panel discussion about internships and his investigation into a trend which, he argues, is destroying "what’s left of the ordered world of training, hard work and fair compensation".

This issue was highlighted in early February when it was reported that a selection of prestigious internships at major City firms, media outlets and PR companies were auctioned off to party donors at the Conservatives’ annual Black and White Party.

Are internships for the privileged, and to what extent are those professions where intern experience is compulsory now closed off young people from lower income families?

Or with no framework in place to protect their rights, is the internship a money-saving system for businesses, formalising the exploitation of young people by requiring them to do jobs that would otherwise be paid positions and work long hours without pay?

Join us at the Frontline Club to discuss the world of the intern and the culture of work.

Chaired by Martin Bright, political editor of The Jewish Chronicle and founder of New Deal of the Mind, an organisation which aims to boost employment in Britain’s creative industries. In 1996 he was appointed education correspondent at The Observer, where he also worked as home affairs editor, in 2005 he became political editor of the New Statesman, a job which he left in January 2009. 


Ross Perlin, former unpaid intern and author of Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy, he is now gainfully employed researching obsolescing languages in China;

Fiona O’Cleirigh, freelance journalist and vice-chair of the London Freelance Branch of the NUJ.  She set up the NUJ’s Cashback for Interns campaign, to help unpaid media interns sue former employers for the National Minimum Wage.  The union has recently won its first intern’s National Minimum Wage case at London Central Employment Tribunal;

Andrew Scherer, marketing manager of internship agency Inspiring Interns, having started at the company as an intern and has seen almost 900 graduates find placements through Inspiring Interns. Currently completing a guide to internships to be published in the autumn.

Dupsy Abiola, founder and CEO of Intern Avenue, Oxford Alumni and former employed barrister. Intern Avenue hosts the world’s first Intern Directory™ and connects interns and employers by automatically matching them via their objective criteria.;

Dom Potter, co-founder of Internocracy, the youth-led social enterprise which works to lower the barriers and raise the bar in internships. Former intern he has since found work with the OECD, Involve and the Young Foundation. He is also a Trustee of TimeBank, a Fellow of the RSA and was Future 100 Young Social Entrepreneur of the year in 2009.