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Never Not Creative: Unpaid Internships

Kate Elizabeth — 16 August 2018


How many people you know - how many of us - have done an internship as part of our journey into our career?

And how many of us did that internship (or even several), unpaid?

Unpaid Work Experience

A study in 2016 found 58% of Australians aged 18-29 had participated in at least one episode of Unpaid Work Experience (UWE) in the last five years. 20% of these had undertaken five or more unpaid internships. Five.

The topic of internships is a fraught one within much of the creative industry, and indeed some large companies seem to base their business model on unpaid internships.

Employers benefit from this cheap (read free) labour, and in some cases, the interns actually pay the company for the privilege of being an intern.

We know it instinctively, but research by the ABC highlighted that the creative fields offer the most internships. 46.7% of ads in the Advertising, Media and Public Relations industry during the research period were for internships.

Internships after graduation

Many graduates believe internships after graduation are a way to get their foot in the door, gain experience and exposure and hopefully parlay that into an entry-level role.

For some, these internships after graduation already come after in-course internships, often called Work Integrated Learning (WIL). Universities use WIL to help improve the employability of graduates, to bridge the gap between theoretical teaching and practical application.

When does it become exploitative?

Of the 1054 job ads collated by the ABC, 12% were advertised as paid, 31% were definitively classified as unpaid, and the remaining 57% didn't specify.

The revealing article by the ABC showed the extent of unpaid internships and highlighted the impact they have: "Unpaid internships can also help to reproduce social inequality because they require those involved to work for free, sometimes for long periods. This effectively excludes those without independent means, family support or substantial savings."

Unpaid internships for many of us who did them may seem like a right of passage. If we did them, why should today's juniors and graduates 'escape' without paying their dues?

The counterpoint position for businesses within the creative realm, for companies who employ creative people, is creative work has inherent value and should be remunerated.

Where to from here?

Internships, run well, provide students and graduates with invaluable experience that makes them more valuable as employees and helps them understand how our industries and workplaces function.

Our responsibility is to provide valuable teaching moments and to remunerate them for their work.

The team at Outfit feel so passionately about paid internships, and the future of happy and healthy creatives we are hosting the first Never Not Creative Brisbane event.

Never Not Creative is an initiative from two of the rad dudes at Streamtime, Andy Wright and Paddy Morgan. Never Not Creative is about building a community of creatives who want to make our industry a better place.

Several events have already been run, and we are pleased to host the next one, talking specifically about the prickly topic of paid v unpaid internships.

Register at Eventbrite to carve a new future for internships in the creative community.

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