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Paul Weedon

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MD and Founder of Red 24 Management, Paul Weedon, tells MediaNation why he believes unpaid internships are often ‘pure exploitation’.

An “internship” is an opportunity offered by an employer to potential employees, called “interns”, to work at a firm for a fixed, limited period of time. (Wikipedia)

I founded Red 24 Management nearly 6 years ago and we use interns. 10 over the past 18 months in fact.

It’s the new big one. Graduates need experience in the workplace and the system is supposed to help the latest stream of talented individuals in the UK fine tune their skill sets within their chosen field. It enables them to learn about their chosen industry, right? Hands on experience doing exactly what they want to do? At the very least show them what they don’t want to do and perhaps steer them in a new direction before they plough into the wrong career trajectory?

Wrong. That’s how it is supposed to work but that’s not what is happening.

Purely and simply employers are taking advantage. Why get someone so qualified in for a couple of weeks for just expenses when you can get them in for a month? Or 3 months? Or 6? Or a full year?

Ridiculous as it may sound I could list a number of high profile media companies who offer 1 year internships paying between £50 and £100 per week as expenses only. And at the end that year? 9 times out of 10 they toss them out and get the next one in.

It’s pure exploitation and the scary thing is that anyone aged between 20 and 24 has been brainwashed into thinking this is the only way to get an ‘in.’

It’s morally wrong and ultimately short sighted from the employers.

If you’re looking for a new member for your team; Someone with new, inspiring and exciting ideas; Surely it’s about sourcing the very best talent for the position. Yes, the employers are in a strong position at the moment as it is harder than ever for graduates to gain employment.  But in bringing in what is pretty much a free member of staff employers are not finding the best, they are finding the most privileged. The people who have enough family affluence to support them through the new internship craze.

Now maybe that person is the best? But surely it’s about looking at everyone. From every demographic, from every background, and from every location.

On the face of it employers are taking advantage of the internship scheme. There is no doubt that graduates are being exploited. But look closer and the employers are fooling themselves. The future of the media industry relies on us bringing in the very best new people. That’s the only way to grow and develop.

More often than not this quite simply isn’t happening and it sickens me. The more the media industry collectively does this, the more talent will go towards other industries, and as we are seeing at an alarming rate, an increasing amount of people are travelling abroad to utilise their skills.

We use interns. They come in for 2 weeks. And 4 in the past year have gone on to be in full time employment at Red 24 Management. I’d like to think that the others learned something and took something away with them from the experience.

That’s how it should work, and it’s the only way that both sides win. Both now, and crucially, in the future.