If you are searching for internship opportunities within the PR industry, particularly in Fashion PR, you will often find the little sentence at the bottom of the job position saying; “this is an unpaid position”. Indeed, this is something we have gotten used to, and it is usually not expected to acquire a paid position when you are also a BA or MA student.
Why do I believe that this usually occurs in Fashion PR? Well, we had a discussion about internships in class, whereas our teacher told us something I find rather worrying, thus without unpaid interns in the fashion industry, it would go under. This got me thinking about how the situation for the interns and the brands is today.
While reviewing the qualification requirements in internship positions, it is noticeable that the intern will be part of many important decisions that will affect the brand greatly, and is not always there mainly to pick up coffee or sort the mail (I know that interns don’t just do those things). There are numerous of job positions being published every day, and even more job applications that are delivered to different offices for processing. If one intern is declining or resigning a job position based on the unpaid aspect, another one will replace them in an instant.
Furthermore, it is also important to think about that the fashion industry has suffered severely due to the global recession, and that it just recently started to stabilise. If the fashion brands need to start paying all their interns, it will indeed be the end for many businesses.
However, regardless of this disturbing thought, interns are in fact workers who are entitled to the national minimum wage, and employers who use unpaid workforce could be breaking the law by ignoring this regulation. According to an article in Jobsite, there have been arranged high-profiled campaign and HM Revenue & Customs action towards unpaid internships over the past years, but little has been done.
Considering that many people acquire internships based on the professional experience rather than the money, I do believe that both options should exist. For instance, I recently worked as an intern at Fashion Scout, the fashion show that showcase creative designer talents during London Fashion Week from 15-19th February. I was lucky enough to be offered the job through my fashion PR teacher Kim Blake, and it was an unpaid position. Nevertheless, I felt that I experienced and learned so much during this short period, which is something I probably never would have been part of if it hadn’t been an unpaid position.
What are your thoughts about unpaid internships?