I was really excited today when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the headline, “Diversity organisation celebrates placing 1000th paid intern.” The concept that some entity was able to secure PAID internships for over 1000 people in creative field was amazing to me.
I was a little disappointed upon realizing moments later that the organization was in England, not the US. But it is great that they have been effective at finding internships for low income young people from diverse backgrounds.
Just as in the US, there has been recognition in England that having an internship is beneficial for career development. Unfortunately, only people with the means to support and transport themselves while receiving little to no pay are able to avail themselves of this opportunity.
The organization that has conducted these placements, Creative Access, says that 90% of their participants secure roles at the end of the internship. Since they offer to provide support finding a job when the internship is over, presumably not everyone secures a position with the place at which they interned.
The interns receive at least the equivalent of the National Living Wage of £15,000 a year (US $19,764.45). It helps that all interns in England must be paid the equivalent of the National Living Wage so Creative Access doesn’t need to spend a lot of time insisting their applicants be paid.
Still, it isn’t easy matching and monitoring internships across dozens of organizations. In addition, Creative Access provides training and mandatory monthly masterclasses to their participants to help them prepare for their careers.
If you are thinking about how great this is and wondering why it isn’t happening in the US, part of the difference is that in addition to the payment requirement, there are other rules and regulations in England governing internships that ensure the experience is valuable. Many of them are actually mirrored in US rules governing internships, but appear to be more clearly defined. (see “What Constitutes a Training Role“)
For example, both the US and England say that an intern is being paid to learn, not to provide a service, and therefore can’t replace an employee. The rules in England extend that idea further by prohibiting termination on the basis of poor productivity or income generation. Interns can only be terminated for behavioral issues like tardiness, negative social interactions, etc. So essentially you couldn’t terminate an intern for taking too long to process a ticket order, rewiring lighting instruments incorrectly or failing to proofread something that went to print.
Actually, while the implication in the FAQ section is that these are the rules governing internship termination, I couldn’t find mention of them in the documents linked to by Creative Access. However, I think structuring an intern’s experience in the context that they can’t be fired for lack of productivity shifts the dynamics of the relationship and avoids viewing them as a replacement for an employee, a situation which is spelled out in US law regarding internships.