Friday, 3 September 2010

The Internship Challenge

The issue of how we reward interns for their efforts is being discussed again, and seems all the more stark given the currently weak state of the jobs market, and the reduction in university places available. PR Week for instance, carries an analysis piece this week, including some comments from me. In the same issue, it also runs a piece entitled 'public believes degrees are ten-a-penny'. The juxtaposition is interesting

My old CIPR boss Colin Farrington had a pithy little line 'the best can be the enemy of the good'. I guess he might have deployed it here -would the challenge that some have made for all internships to be well paid run the risk of simply reducing the total number of internships available? That certainly wouldn't help either us as an industry, or the people trying to get their first break.

But equally an industry of slave labourers isn't what we want either -in fact, it shames us. It certainly serves as an unwelcome filter, blocking the path of those unable to afford the luxury of working without pay. As a student, I turned down an unpaid internship with the think tank Politeia -I'd have loved to have worked there, but I couldn't afford to. So I do recognise the problem.

This conundrum is all the more acute given the economic uncertainty we still face. At the PRCA, we think it is just one aspect of the wider challenge of ensuring that the very best available talent sees PR as an attractive, rewarding, open industry industry. It encompasses deep issues such as ethnicity, gender, disability, class. It isn't an issue that is amenable to simple, quick solutions, and we certainly don't believe that the answers are ready made.

But it is an issue we are committed to addressing. We will shortly be announcing the make-up of a commission to examine this challenge, and to come forward with practical recommendations. We cannot promise easy solutions, but we can promise effort and commitment.

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