Internships in the arts have been a hot topic for decades: promising experience, networks and training, but sometimes delivering explotative working practices and little valuable learning.
There are many widely differing opinions on internships in the arts. Some high-profile organisations don't pay their interns anything - not even travel or other out-of-pocket costs. Others try to make sure they are paid at least the minimum wage, and get valuable experiences that can help them in their future careers.
Unpaid internships also provide a barrier to workers who are unable to support themselves without a wage - making them the preserve of independently wealthy people and inacessible to others. It doesn't help that there's no legal definition of an internship - and often little agreement on what constitutes 'work'. Internships are different from volunteers, as volunteers cannot be provided a programme of work and cannot be made to work if they do not want to.
Recent discussions on internships include:
- How long is too long? Internships over 6 months qualify as employment - The Arts Group
- Interns work – and should be paid, lawyers warn ministers - The Guardian
- Unpaid internships break the law – but only 10% young people know it - National Union of Students
The listings below can help you find more resources, discussions and articles that can help you consider when to take on an internship and to learn about your rights. Artquest has also put together an extensive section of resources, including what makes a model internship and questions you should ask yourself before signing up to one.
Interns Anonymous is a forum for interns to share their experiences and discuss the ethics of unpaid employment, a place where you can share your story. Also provides useful links, opinions and resources on internships.
Intern Aware is a campaign focusing on promoting fair access to the internship system. It assumes that access to internships is unequal and unfair, and that by refusing to pay interns a wage, many people are excluded from accessing the opportunities which would allow them to get the jobs they deserve. Their main objective is making sure that interns are paid at least the minimum wage and they lobby the Government to remove the loopholes that allow companies to pay interns nothing.