Well, well, well… This headline certainly caught my eye: “HMRC plans crackdown on fashion industry’s unpaid interns” (The Guardian.) It seems like the British government is finally going to do something about all of the overworked, unpaid slaves working in the London fashion studios. They have hired a task force that will be targeting the fashion industry for the next six months and investigating the use of interns in small and large fashion companies.
Intern abuse is rife in London, and it sickens me. I know of students who have been very badly treated in internships that required long hours and no pay (I know one who was at Alexander McQueen for 6 months, was only paid travel costs, worked 12 hours a day, and had no hope of getting a job.) An internship should teach you a bit about the company and how the industry works, but I have knows students to be stuck in a PR agency’s “closet,” not even on the same floor as the employees so therefore having no chance of learning how things work.
Internships should be educational, and should often lead to jobs. When I did my internship at Sonia Rykiel, I got a job afterwards. This shouldn’t be unheard of, companies need to recruit, and they should be taking on a limited number of interns in hopes that a few of them will be good enough to hire. If a company needs 15 interns in one department to keep the workloads manageable, then they are obviously abusing the role of the intern and need to hire more staff.
The internship also needs to be a learning experience, the idea is that the intern learns the ropes, and is then more valuable when applying for jobs. Basically, they need to get some great experience out of it, if not it doesn’t make sense to work for free. Finally, internships should not be longer than three months (unless they are paid.) If not, the only people who can afford to do an internship (yes, it is expensive to work for free) are the ones who are wealthy. Either that, or they need to work night jobs which is just too much. I know people who are where they are because they were able to work for free for years. They are talented, yes, but so were many others. The fact that they were able to intern for years gave them opportunities others didn’t have.
I think it is great news that the British government is cracking down on intern abuse, hopefully it will mean that more jobs will open up in the industry, when companies will realize that they can’t rely on free labour to stay in business.
Have you done an internship that you thought you were badly treated?