Leadership For The Future


Interns: A fair trade?

There’s been much in the media about young people, particularly 18 to 24 year olds struggling to find work.  NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) are a growing concern with the numbers in this group rising to a record high of £1.16m in November last year.

It’s good to give opportunities to young people seeking work, but few organisations have a clear approach to managing interns or set out what they expect and how they will reward them in return.  Sad to say, many businesses prefer to poach experienced employees rather than train their own. Yet young people are among the most disadvantaged in the labour market because they lack both the experience of the workplace and the job-specific skills that employers seek.   From an employers’ perspective internships provide an opportunity to introduce capable young people to the reality of working life and help the organisation develop pipeline of excellent talent and skills as well as become an employer of choice.

Whether interns should be paid or not has led to some strong public debate.  The government have issued guidance on the legal position of paying interns at least the national minimum wage and the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) have published an Internship Charter which sets out a clear code of practice for employers to deliver high quality opportunities for young people.


Incidentally the CIPD have also produced some guidance on managing work experience – Work Experience Placements That Work:  A Guide for Employers – updated April 2012.  This can be found in the link below:


For charities, in particular, that rely on public funding and private donations there is a reputational risk.  They will be seen to be incompatible with their own mission if they are perceived to be exploiting their interns by not paying them at least the national minimum wage.   Anything less doesn’t seem a fair trade, does it?