I’ve just started reading a new book called ‘Intern Nation‘ by Ross Perlin. Mummy bought it for me because I’m special. Actually my mother bought it for me because I imagine she’s starting to believe in what we’re trying to do at WEXO. I can’t help it that she knows where to get it or that she wanted to pay for it. And that is the issue at stake. Forgive me if I sound like a broken record (I feel like one) but there’s nothing wrong with knowing people who can get you something e.g an internship. The problem starts when other people aren’t given access to it too. The problem is compounded when a role that has a’ list of duties and work set hours’ (as per UK governmental guidance) is not paid. Legalities aside it is unethical and the biproduct is that it discriminates against other people who can’t afford to do it for free.
Despite being just 28, (as Churchill said “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 20, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative when you’re 40, you have no head.“) Perlin’s analysis is brave yet commercially aware and this guy is clearly no fool ( though he is currently writing a dictionary of a Chinese language spoken by just 6000 people). He sees value in internships, he does not want to choke the supply of them; rather he is passionate about making them work for us ALL. Here are 5 snippets that have particualarly resonated with me so far (and I’ve only just finished the preface):
1) The U.K. is apparently 5 years behind the U.S. in its use of internships but Perlin warns of what internships could become: “Until just a few decades ago, the word [internship] referred almost exclusively to a particular period of hands-on apprenticeship in the medical profession… Today…probably… between 1 and 2 million people participate in internships each year in the U.S…. ‘The rise of the internship is the market’s finding the workaround to government regulations, evidence of the tendency of liberty to grow up like grass in the cracks of sidewalks”.
2) Perhaps the worst example of how internships can be exploited: “Required by the school to take ‘a social internship’, two girls in the Netherlands, aged fourteen and fifteen, intern as prostitutes in the local red light district”
3) Who is to blame? “All of us – employers, parents schools, government agencies, and interns themselves – are complicit [albeit subconsciously] in the devauing of work, the exacerbation of social inequality, and the disillusionment of young people in the workplace that are emerging as a result of the internet boom.”
4) Hope: Perlin sees his book as “a step towards sanity and towards justice”. In a recent Guardian review, Andy Beckett lamented that things could get worse before they get better. In the Times, Kaya Burgess quoted Intern Aware and Interns Anonymous as saying there is a limit to how much they can fight the system. We do not believe that the system needs fighting. There are a multitude of well mentored, paid internships on offer to the best candidates in the UK and we like to think a lot of them are on WEXO. As ever, what we need to do is work together to make sure that there are reasons for companies to offer even more of them.
I look forward to updating you. The problem is I always seem to start books in earnest but then start others and take ages to finish them. Amongst others, I’m also currently reading ‘The Big Short‘ by Michael Lewis and Keith Richards’ autobiography. Sorry Mum, but both are infinitely more entertaining and I suspect at least one of them contains some pertinent careers advice to boot.
Robin Kennedy. Co-Founder, WEXO