Young, Talented & Working for Free

Interns Anonymous has been set up by two graduates currently working as unpaid interns. Their website is a forum for interns to share their experiences and discuss the ethics of unpaid employment. Most importantly, this site is a place where YOU can tell your story.

This video is focused on internships within politics: “Youth unemployment is at record levels: young people across the UK are increasingly turning to internships to improve their chances of winning that lucrative first job. There are currently no rules governing internships in the UK, leading to accusations of exploitation and elitism. See what a few young people think about internships and employment in the UK.”

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The topic of free internships is a conversation I often have. Every time a designer does works for free they are devaluing themselves and their discipline. It is a topical issue and unfortunately remains so in the field of Service Design. For example, Live|Work recently advertised for an intern to work unpaid on a social farming networking project.

However, Adrian Shaughnessy argued in Design Week this month that we shouldn’t forget to give something back:

We designers are quick to grumble about sharp practices – free-pitching and a cavalier approach towards intellectual property spring to mind. But we can only claim moral superiority if our attitude to interns is beyond reproach. If we refuse to pay for their services, or if we pay them a fee, but neglect to devote time or effort to advancing their knowledge, we are no better than Hammond or all those unscrupulous clients.

When I had a studio, I always paid interns. I didn’t pay much, but I paid something, and I always made sure that I spent time with each one. Sometimes they had to do the sandwich run or make the tea, but I never asked anyone to pick up my dry cleaning. I’m sure there are a few designers who didn’t get my full attention and left without much discernable increase in their knowledge. But I’ve met quite a few of them since and I haven’t been punched yet. There’s still time, I suppose.

Graduates, students, educators and employers please support these guys – follow them on twitter