I simply cannot find a placement that offers remuneration of any kind

Employers and MPs taking advantage as graduates struggle to find jobs:

The new elitism that is freezing out poorer graduates:

These articles sum up some of my frustrations with trying to find work at the moment. I simply cannot find a placement that offers remuneration of any kind, even travel expenses. This wasn’t so much a problem when I held placements alongside my 1st and 2nd year studies, which weren’t particularly involved as I lacked the software skills to do any real work back then. But I no longer have a student loan to depend on, and now I’ve graduated I feel my five years of college and university education merits something better than doing the work nobody else in the studio wants to do, for free. Given the current economic climate, I could barely travel and survive working for free where I live, never mind those who offered me unpaid work in London. Whenever I challenge an agency on their refusal to offer a wage, their stance is always ‘we’re doing you a favour’. How?  

I realise I’m inexperienced (though I do have a year or so of studio experience) and don’t claim to be the finished article, but after studying 5 years of diplomas and degree courses, I’ve at least shown that I’m willing. If you like my portfolio enough to have me working in your studio, pay me what my education and skills deserve. Really, is that too much to ask? 

Some of the agencies offering me unpaid placements count Coca Cola, Nissan, Manchester United, Sony and Nickelodeon amongst their clients. Some have over a hundred staff, and have numerous unpaid interns each week. Some are part of multinational corporations. Do they seriously expect anyone to believe they cannot afford to pay interns £5.73 for a few hours a week? They continue to exploit graduates, because everyone else is doing it and getting away with it. If a company doesn’t pay tax at the end of the financial year, Inland Revenue will quickly be on their case. Who is monitoring design companies to ensure they pay workers minimum wage? Nicky Campbell, we need you sir… 

Banks are offering training schemes of £16k or above for graduates who have not necessarily studied an associated subject, yet I’m expected to work for nothing in an industry I’ve trained 5 years to get into. It just doesn’t seem right. After almost 6 months of writing, emailing and calling agencies and getting the same response, I’m now on the brink of taking work in another industry. I don’t want to close the door on design, but if our own industry doesn’t value its graduates enough to pay them minimum wage, then it doesn’t leave me with much choice. I went to university to escape the low paid call centre, data entry and bar jobs I’d spent years doing. Now design agencies want me to work for less than that? Are you kidding? 

Talent is not the issue here, since studios seem to like my work enough to invite me in; but I simply cannot compete against those with families able to support them on stints to London working for free. £240 per month Jobseekers Allowance doesn’t go very far where I live, so travelling to another city is completely out of the question. The way I see things, unpaid placements are tantamount to discrimination against all those who want experience, but do not have the financial resources to enter the industry as an unpaid trainee. 

I’ll end with some great advice someone gave me recently: If you’re offered unpaid work that should be paid, perhaps you should consider reporting the company to the Low Pay Commission at www.lowpay.gov.uk

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3 Responses to “I simply cannot find a placement that offers remuneration of any kind”


  1. 1 pcsunionrep 08/30/2009 at 11:19 pm

    HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) – formerly Inland Revenue – have statutory powers to enforce payment of the national minimum wage by employers. They are obliged to investigate complaints from workers who believe they are entitled to the national minimum wage and are not receiving it.

    Many interns who unpaid are actually working under arrangements which mean that they should be entitled to receive the national minimum wage.

    I would recommend that any unpaid interns contact the National Minimum Wage Helpline for advice. Their number is 0845 6000 678.

    Alternatively an online complaint can be made via the following link:

    http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/nmw

  2. 2 Emily 06/14/2012 at 3:39 pm

    this is an excellent analysis of the current situation.

    i feel impelled to assure you that the people with means who are gullible enough to fall into the unpaid abyss, from which you are prudently withholding yourself and your talents, will not come out ahead of you.

    to tell the truth, i think not giving in to the unpaid intern trap is a badge that we can wear with pride. it’s really a “the emperor is naked!” situation and one day we will all come to our senses.

    Unfortunately our last laugh may be bitter because we will have lost the chance to have a profession in a field for which we trained, NOT because of the unpaid interns who are privately wealthy but because of this global economic downturn which has left our generation without paid work, period. Unpaid internships are just figleaves.

  3. 3 cooking pumpkin seeds 05/14/2013 at 8:04 am

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