Interns: make tea for free, get a job (maybe)

Perhaps New Start should offer internships. After all, as a national magazine, a past winner of the publishing industry ‘magazine of the year’ award, and a paragon of quality editorial coverage of the regeneration sector, ours would be a prestigious name on any hip-young-journalistic-gunslinger’s CV.

Yet for some reason I can’t foresee a queue of Sheffielders wanting to make our editor’s tea (although someone has to – he’s not very good at making it himself).

Maybe it’s because internships just seem so, well, southern. But really, as the government’s social mobility adviser Alan Milburn pointed out this week here (, they’re unfair and an outdated barrier to social mobility.

When New Start shared an open plan office in Waterloo with an exciting bunch of other social enterprises I was amazed at the number of people working for free for one of our neighbours, an energetic think tank.

They were all committed to their organisation’s cause, and doubtless many have gone on to find paid employment as a result. But it always struck me as ironic that an organisation (which will remain nameless, but was one of many think tanks that operate internships) devoted to social inclusion should perpetuate a system whereby only those with the means to work for free could gain the experience they needed to get a proper job in the sector.

Milburn’s right: “the internship process disproportionately merits the wealthy and those who live in the South-East, but often you cannot get a job in a profession without this kind of work experience”. We need to break this vicious circle.


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