This week the debate over interns has raised its head again with two very different contributions. Here our own (paid!) intern Maisie Skidmore looks at the new row and explains why Intern magazine offers some hope. As ever you can add your thoughts using the thread below…
The arrival of Intern magazine sparked an interesting debate in the It’s Nice That studio this week, over an issue which has, over the last few years, become a melting pot of frustration, resentment and arrogance. Just today D&AD chairman Dick Powell provoked a huge backlash after making a speech which reportedly declared that all graduates should work for free, proclaiming: “Offer anything, do anything. Work for nothing, make tea, carry bags, and learn, learn, learn.” (He has since released a statement to clarify his comments.)
The overall gist of the debate is that interns in the creative industries often work long days for months at a time with no guarantee of improved job prospects at the end.
Last year Vice published an article complaining interns were “rising up off their swivel chairs, shaking their imaginary shackles and demanding what is not rightfully theirs”. The article denounced their efforts to demand more from their work experience, and was largely slammed. Having said that (and you’re probably not going to like me for saying this) beneath the deliberate provocation and the determination to cause controversy, some of the points in this piece do, in fact, carry some weight.
“Offer anything, do anything. Work for nothing, make tea, carry bags, and learn, learn, learn.”
D&AD Chairman Dick Powell quoted on Dezeen
For one, internships are intended to give young, talented and ambitious people the experience required to help them develop their skills to, eventually, find paid work. They aren’t, and don’t pretend to be, jobs. In fact, many companies in media barely have enough money to pay actual staff for their work, let alone untrained ones. What an internship will ideally do, is cultivate a wide range of skills.
What is more problematic is that we are not talking about a level playing field. Interns whose parents are able to support them financially gain an unfair advantage over those who work hard to maintain their financial independence. This is where Dick Powell’s overarching statements fall short, and where employers can help by paying their interns.
Intern magazine, on the other hand, is taking this difficult topic and using it to create something undeniably positive. Alec Dudson explains that the publication’s intentions are “to be a tactile showcase for the brightest intern and unpaid talent” and "to initiate an important debate about the current culture of internships and its potential implications for the creative industries.”
It’s easy to choose which team we’d rather side with. By solidifying issues which have otherwise been whirring noisily around the internet for some time into a tangible, collective and undoubtedly very beautiful publication Intern looks to salvage what it can from the whole debacle, and to open up the debate to further ideas.