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