Internship – Slavery 2.0

Internship / Slavery 2.0

Looking at the picture of the man and the woman you could be forgiven for thinking the post was maybe going to be about Valentines and kinky bondage of some sorts. Read the poem however and hopefully it will become a bit clearer.

When I started out in webdesign “professionally” (I’ll use that term loosely as I started without any qualifications in webdesign) around 10+ years ago I was young and very much naive. I … I … I did things for money I’m not proud of … yes I did websites for 20quid and a 6pack of red bull ( a reference to my post on what to charge for webdesign ). I was young I wanted to make a name for myself I wanted to build a portfolio and I really didn’t understand how the world worked. You’re told things by people and because they have so much more experience you think they must be true.

  • I’ll tell all my friends you did my website (WOW you mean I get to do more cheap websites for your friends)
  • It’ll look great on your portfolio ( A couple of hundred in my wallet wouldn’t hurt either you know )
  • If this works out there’s the potential for a lot more work

I think the last one here is key. What exactly do they mean by that. More work at a crap rate is generally what it means. We just need this next bit of work done and we’ll get the money onto you. Can you sort us out with this it’s hurting our business.

I’ve personally learned this just doesn’t work out. People generally don’t respect you and you end up getting screwed over. I’d love for it to be different it’s generally not. While the sites you end up doing here may end up looking good on your portfolio so would potentially doing some websites for charity or something similar and probably pay just as well. ( See as an example of what I’m on about but it doesn’t have to be a competition and you could approach a charity yourself … sometimes they’ll have money / grants available who knows. )

Flash forward to the present day. The Irish / World economy is … well … not in a happy place to put it nicely. What do I see … I see all these people who in the past have been huge advocates of the advice you never do work for free seeking out interns. So what’s the pay like? Well as far as I can tell it’s pretty **** and it’s not really pay. It’s a stipend 400 or 500 quid a month which lets face it if you’ve got rent to pay isn’t a hell of a lot. Now if they were looking for a student I might be thinking ok it’s placement it’s not always guaranteed to be well paid and if it’s part of their course they have placement then so be it suck it up get graded for the work/project and so be it (in my year a lot of our class ended up in fairly decent summer jobs with companies). These companies however are looking to recruit fresh graduates out of college for the offer of a life time. 6 Months work … 3 grand over the course of this time WOW … and we might just hire you at the end? erm hang on this really seems two faced.

It reminds me a bit like all these business people I’ve seen lauding the advantages of outsourcing their website development to elance and so on as yes it can be much more cost effective and then expecting people to buy their Irish product cus it’s an Irish product and supporting their Irish job? erm… a bit hypocritical.

Anyways just a rant I needed to get out of my system … while I know times are tough they are tough for everyone not just your business so if looking into taking on an intern please think about paying them something to make it at least worth their while. You’ll no doubt tell me of the great advantage having the job on their CV will be for them and how much time and effort you’ll have to put into training them up but half the time it just seems to me you’re out to make a quick buck from your free worker.

I would however love to hear from any Interns and actual positive experiences they’ve had.

25 thoughts on “Internship – Slavery 2.0

  1. Pingback: James
  2. I’ve heard tell of companies taking on fás trainees for the required length of time (to give them “work experience” at no expense to the company), and then letting them go as soon as they were going to cost… again, beware!

  3. Here in the UK only young people with rich daddies can be “interns”. I was a director of a company who used interns and it was always public school people. Its all part of the old cycle: have money > go to right school > make useful contacts > get good work experience > get a top job > make lots of money > send kids to the right school > etc.

  4. This happens all the time and I completely agree with you. I also point out to new designers that the lower the budget agreed, the greater the amount of changes/feature creap at the end – as there’s usually no extra cost to the client.

    I think that business owners should be somewhat fairer – it’s a practice I wouldn’t want to be part of.

    It essentially becomes a contract between two businesses (even if one of those is a sole trader, unregistered even). There’s no cap on the hours – so they’re probably not going to even meet “minimum wage” requirements.

    On the other hand many people start a business and don’t get paid for many months…

    When it comes to actual internships (students), that’s another matter.

    At we’ve created 5 full-time and 2 part-time position since October. Both of the people in the part-time positions wanted this by choice and are seasoned pro’s. In the summer we’ve been approached to take on some students as part of their course – one of the issues concerning us would be that we’d love to keep them on afterwards but they’ll have to return to finish their course! Any company hiring interns like this should pay the minimum wage at the very least – and I think its definitely a good programme for interns to learn the type of work carried out in a web technology firm.

  5. Hi James, great post.

    As Gordon mentioned, I think it’s stemming from what’s been happening in the UK and the US for years. In those cases though I feel it’s used a s a class filter to get those who can ‘afford’ not to be paid. The Irish equivalent however comes across as just plain slave labour. I have noticed it creep in a lot more recently and don’t ever remember it being an option when I graduated.

    I can understand companies not willing to risk offering a year long contract these days as they will want to cover themselves in case the employee isn’t up to scratch but unpaid? I think companies are playing their ‘recession’ card a bit too liberally recently.

    That said I have noticed more reputable businesses like The Creative District offering paid internships. I think the more it is highlighted the better it will be for graduates/unemployed etc.

  6. Fair play to the companies offering paid internships I say I was lucky enough to have 6 months placement when I was in college (difference I was in college and not a graduate which is where a lot of these intern positions are aimed at) :)

    @Kevin … a company hires someone and if it isn’t working out that person is let go I presume that’s simple enough you’re given notice that you’re no longer required. If you’re paid by the week you are only obliged to pay them an extra week or something (may not be true)

    I just worry that the trend of unpaid internships continues and lets face it if someone said “Hi do you want someone to work for you free you can probably sell make 20 – 30 quid of them an hour and they’ll just require a bit of training? what company would say no? (hopefully ones with morals) but if you’ve got a certain business acumen you’re just going to see 2 interns making money 20 x 40 hours / week = 800 x 2 = 1600 quid a week = the shiny. End of the 6 months you get in your next 2 interns. This eventually starts to become the norm and the webdesign industry is not going to be in a happy place at all ( similar to the FAS model of things which I take it which is just costing the tax payer money as the next FAS hires are taken on after their placements)

  7. On the other hand my eldest son is an apprentice chef. He earns about £800 per month (virtually tax free as he is under the main tax thresholds). His employers pay for him to go to college and get proper qualifications (at quite an expense to them – part paid for by the government of course).

    This seems to me to a be a very equitable way of doing things. He works hard and gets a fairly low salary, but at the same time he is getting real world qualifications and experience. Its a good balance between the two.

  8. @Gordon for that money and his fees to be paid I think it’s quite a different thing though. The internship that sparked me to write this post was talking about a stipend of up to €500 for a “fully qualified” graduate. Your son is still studying ( wonder if he gets free meals as well :D )

  9. Not good to expect a qualified person to work for that sort of money. Yes, he gets meals and all sorts of other perks. Better than being a university student.

  10. @James, @Gordon

    Often a trainee can be a net cost to a company while they are learning – takes up resources to skill them and lower productivity. Sorry to be so clinical about somebody and their job but if you have to handhold someone through a skilled operation where they need 3+ months of training and support, you’re going to be losing the money on them and the people used to support them.

  11. David, that’s a normal business overhead surely? At least an element of it is, under the heading “staff development and training”. Unless you are Ryanair of course! My standing joke is “£99 flight to new York (plus £99 optional fee to leave the aircraft at destination)”.

  12. Hi Gordon,

    Yes, certainly, ongoing development is an important part. If you take somebody with a few years experience (or 10, 20, 30 years) – in a new role as a new hire (or cross-hire in the same Organisation) – while you would expect a few weeks/month (depending on the role etc) – they should be getting involved and making ends meet.

    A software developer (for example) fresh from college (even a graduate) is not going to need a good bit of handholding. An inexperienced Sales Person is going to take a lot longer. The lead time is far greater. You have to develop the skill AND introduce them to the company/organisation.

  13. We (my former company, which was in the web hosting industry) provided sales management training and mentoring for our account manager and sales manager via a freelance consultant who was very good and with a clearly defined cost. I think the salaries of those posts reflected the built in training element, so were slightly lower than for a fully up to speed candidate.

  14. Yes, the salary cost. But what I’m saying is that for many (especially in ICT) graduates and undergraduates – they have a lot to learn before they’re in anyway productive.

    If you take an Accountant or solicitor – they can start earning a fee from graduation – in many cases they are billed out at a much higher rate than they are being paid, and almost a function of profit.

  15. @David … hence I said 20 – 30 quid … simple enough updates … any web graduate I’d assume would have some modicum of common sense and be able to do some work. While I do understand it takes a LOT to train in someone (I have gone through the experience with various students in the past and it’s time consuming and equates to lost time for me) I also think that the 2 or 3 hours spent training them gives a much bigger return.

  16. Hi James,

    i’m not in disagreement with you – I’m talking about someone as an Intern more specifically…

    20-30 quid – per hour? Thats up there with a senior contractor

  17. @James

    That’s a great post, which I’ve read from your link on IWF. €20 per hour as a business incorporating the overheads of being in business and not withstanding learning on the job.

    I meant someone as an intern – as an exmployee, not contractor – therefore earning €25 per hour = €52k per year (incl. paid holidays and all that).

    Not trying to split hairs or argue that people should be exploited – in fact I’m supporting the post.

  18. Recent jobs I’ve seen advertised for free interns seem to be very heavy on what menial tasks are required (data entry, cold-calling, etc.) and very light on what skills will actually be taught.

  19. Most of the jobs I’m seeing involve creating newsletters / managing facebook / twitter accounts (seriously .. hardly rocket science but can be time consuming) … and most recently jokingly said by someone … making tea.

    As far as I can tell these people aren’t in a position to impart any major wisdom on these topics and half the time don’t actually have this position in their company already. Internship implies you’ll be learning something not just figuring stuff out yourself.

  20. Hello

    Man, in France they always say we borrow fucked thing from abroad, I should have graduate the next month and I’m not graduating this year because I didn’t want to enslave myself for free. It’s a huge deception to see that the world has embraced the French way of treating interns. A common saying among managers : ” Need to delegate ? Need to improve on the fringe ? Take an intern. ”

    The problem is even more complex now, if you’re in a business school you might have to do a internship abroad, that’s mandatory, and most of the studs either choose to pay to have an internship abroad or to go nuts in academic exchange level minus one.
    Robots, they even don’t see their being mass produced. In return they’ll get less paid and their carreer path will also be standardized.
    Not to mention that if you work for free then your showing you want to work even mo’ for free. That’s funny, you know, to hear talking about good and bad internships, I’ve done 5 months in a bank administrating a M$ groupware, people, I mean, Project Officers, weren’t more qualified than a mere child, not even more that an intern but maybe less than a child of 10 years old.

    So interns of the world do not unite, but instead let these fucked up interships offers disappear. Only take what gives you and added value, not what only gives to the firm an added value thanks to you.

    My 2 cents about long internships : permanent job positions paid less than a regular position, so to say these ones are internshits. Even more internshits than the 4 months unpaid internship. ^^

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