SURVEY UPDATE: 86 Parliamentary Interns have taken part so far!

The Jury is still out- some people have obviously had great experiences but some have developed a long lasting aversion to the political world…is it just about personality? Or do some MPs take the humiliation just that bit too far? We have included all previously collected results along with 23 extra responses.

Summary

-          55% of unpaid interns in Westminster are graduate job seekers

-          25% carry out tasks they are not comfortable with (but this can be a positive thing)

-          Only 36% had all their expenses covered.

-          60% developed new skills (but many regretted the money they had spent on this)

-          And the most positive thing- 84% believe the internship boosted their job prospects…although some ended up feeling put off:  

‘It’s hard to tell. Certainly, if I carried on within politics it might do. But having paid a couple of hundred pounds a month to go in to work and eat I am now cold towards politics as a career.’

Full results below.

 

Which of the following most accurately describes your status when you undertook the internship?

 answered question, 85

 skipped question, 1

School Leaver     0.0%     0

Gap year student     4.7%     4

Undergraduate student     22.4%     19

Graduate job seeker     55.3%     47

Postgraduate student     14.1%     12

Other     4.7%      4

If other please specify, 5:

Postgraduate Job Seeker 3, Graduate seeking career change, returning to work.

2. Were you expected to work a fixed number of days and hours?

answered question, 86

skipped question, 0

Yes     74.4%     64

No     4.7%    4

No- I could choose when I came in as long as notified my superiors beforehand:    22.1%, 19

3. Were you ever given a form to sign with details of what was expected from you and what you were to expect from your employer during the course of the internship? For example, that you were not expected to work set hours.

 answered question, 86

 skipped question, 0

Yes     17.4%     15

No     82.6%     71

Any details you would like to add, 10

Comments:

  • I had to sign a contract saying that I would work the following hours how many times a week.
  • My form had a set number of work hours attached to it.
  • It was stated that, in essence, we would not have to work set hours but that it was hoped that we would work 9:00-18:00 and that our tasks would not be set but mainly involve correspondence. They were very flexible and understanding though.
  • Rules agreed orally are obviously subject to change, interpretation, and good/bad faith.
  • I was not given a form to sign. However, I was given a lengthy email detailing the extensive list of duties that I was expected to carry out each week.
  • Got something similar half way through the internship though…
  • They asked me the hours I could manage and I told them. There is an unwritten understanding that I can work slightly more or slightly less than these depending on what I could manage.
  • Not a fixed contract, as I could back out at any time, but it described my role, hours, etc.
  • I was expected to sign a confidentiality agreement but this was all
  • When applying for internships on http://www.w4mp.org it specifies working for at least 3 months, full time – suggesting that you certainly are expected to work set hours!

 

4. Did you ever undertake tasks that you did not feel comfortable with?

 answered question, 86

 skipped question, 0

Yes     24.4%     21

No     75.6%     65

If yes please specify, 14

  • Giving my employer cigarettes, running out to buy random items, including all the main Sunday papers which were never reimbursed to me despite having asked politely…
  • I was in effect replacing a full-time research assistant and in the end none of the published material I produced bore my name on it. I was assigned too much work and for a significant period of time my supervisor was on leave, so I lacked any assistance.
  • Sometimes felt like I was giving more than the company was providing for my development.
  • Task raising ethical matters – use of personal network in a professional context.
  • Speech writing expected, of which I was given 2 days notice and the parliamentary researcher in the MPs office was going away the next day.
  • Driving long distances – expenses were covered
  • I was put in an office, on my own, and told to keep the show going. There’s nothing about being an “intern” in that – they should employ me properly!
  • had to call other MPs’ constituency offices pretending to be a constituent to find out how easy access to surgeries / advice was
  • Asked to go in areas of Parliament where technically I wasn’t allowed
  • Breaking many House of Commons rules.
  • That is the point of the internship. Doing casework especially is something that is very uncomfortable at first. The point is that they are teaching you the real skills that a researcher/caseworker would need. This is inevitably a slightly difficult process.
  • Coffee! I don’t mind making coffee, but they did make the whole thing a slightly derogatory experience.
  • Not so far, haven’t been there long enough perhaps!
  • Yes in the sense that some tasks seemed aimed at demeaning me. Never from senior staff, but, for example, junior staff would ask me to fetch their documents from the printer and other tasks which was simply laziness on their part.

 

5. Were you provided with expenses?

 answered question, 86

 skipped question, 0

Yes, all my expenses were covered     36.0%     31

Partly, my travel was covered but not my lunch     44.2%     38

None of my expenses were covered     20.9%     18

6. Was it made clear to you that you were not legally required to remain working for the advertised length of your internship?

 answered question, 85

 skipped question, 1

Yes     38.8%     33

No     63.5%     54

Any further comments, 14

  • Length of the internship was vague
  •  Although I kind of knew that I wasn’t legally required to stay
  • No but in the absence of a written contract I guessed this was the case. To me this question probably ties into the broader issue of the lack of legal framework and its implementation.
  • No specific length advertised
  • I was given the impression that it was fine to finish early, but I think they would have preferred me to work at least 2 out of the three month internship there. However I am sure they would have been very pleased if, after 1 and a half months, I had secured a job for myself.
  • I sent my CV and a letter to MPs I was interested in working for.
  • No advertised length. my application was speculative
  • I have a contract – 7 months. And I have to give three weeks notice if I quit.
  • But they were easy going
  • Never came up
  • They said they wanted candidates who could do a certain number of months. This was presented as a request on their part and not some kind of quasi-official stipulation. But they made clear this was because the training and familiarisation took a while, and because any less than three months was not going to be enough to convince someone else to employ you.
  • My boss said something similar, but it has never explicitly been phrased like that.
  • The internship was not advertised, only a length of time was loosely agreed.
  • Yes and no, they said it was expected of me and that as a valued member of the team it would be irresponsible of me to ditch them early.

 

7. Do you feel like you developed new skills during your internship?

 answered question, 86

 skipped question, 0

Yes 60.5%     52

No 11.6%     10

Some     30.2%     26

Add further comments here, 11

  • I can now handle websites to a decent level and am an expert with photocopying.
  • I was able to do everything they asked me to do quite easily, so in that respect, no, but I was doing certain things I had never done before, e.g. press releases and writing casework letters.
  • But none that I would not have picked up being in a paid position anyway.
  • I spent far too much time stuffing envelopes/folding letters and being a general delivery girl.
  • My MP gave me short-term research projects in addition to casework. From this, I realised that research interested me, I went on to do a MA in research methods. Now I’m towards the end of my PhD…
  • Felt quite within my limits most of the time
  • The most fruitful work experience I ever had, it adds about a million new points to my CV.
  • Not been there long enough yet.
  • Generally of computer based systems. I would of liked to be able to have done a bit more interaction with people.
  • It was interesting to see inside a different organisation but I have already become a master of mail merge and envelope stuffing. A 3 month internship is a long time to “see inside an organisation” and 6 weeks would have been just fine.

 

8. Do you feel like the internship boosted your job prospects?

 answered question, 84

 skipped question, 2

Yes     84.5%     71

No     15.5%     13

Add further comments here, 18

  • After wandering around the party enough and being interviewed for nine different jobs (no exaggeration!) I finally found paid employment within the party. But it was very bleak for a while and I was told after one interview that the three+ months I spent working (for free!) in Westminster didn’t count as Westminster experience. Hmmm!
  • It’s hard to tell. Certainly, if I carried on in within politics it might do. But having paid a couple of hundred pounds a month to go in to work and eat I am now cold towards politics as a career.
  • Although with three internships I still cannot get a job
  • That was the only thing that kept me going
  • It led directly to a paid job
  • I thought it would, and even with three internships for MPs under my belt (ranging from 6 weeks, to a whole university year working alongside my studies in an MP’s constituency) I’m not even considered (ie asked to interview) for Parliamentary Assistant jobs!
  • It’s hard to tell.
  • I have no idea
  • The only boost this experience has brought to me is to avoid internships, by any means.
  • Maybe the fact that I now have the name “Liberal Democrats” on my CV may help. I honestly don’t know. I will hardly be pointing out the fact that I feel massively exploited by a political party of which I am a member. I should point out that I will not be a member for much longer.
  •  But I think it is sad I had to work for free to do so. In Brussels/France they have internships (called ‘stagiares’) but they are ALWAYS paid, and I think it is only fair to pay someone. In UK it is illegal for those doing internships which are not part of a university degree, but this is systematically ignored as there do not seem to be any consequences for employers who see these legalities as above them, including MPs, who should be fighting for people’s rights and especially employees rights at this particular time when it is likely employers are exploiting the particular economic environment. For example, shockingly, an MP asked a graduate to work for him for free (or, expenses only) for 10 months, which he did because he felt it would be excellent experience. This is exploitation, clearly, but the fact that a former leader of a political party expected someone to sacrifice 10 months earnings for the privilige of working for him is beyond me. It makes me sick and angry that they can get away with this. More so, because I am sure if he had wanted to, he could have put this intern in a paid role, at least after a couple of months, without it affecting his pocket, but made a conscious decision not to do so.
  • I have not got a job in the sector, despite having loads of voluntary experience. I didn’t feel exploited at the time because I was sure it would lead to something, but it never did.
  • But it was still worthwhile – I learnt a lot as a person, and did something I believed to be worthwhile.
  • I felt it did at the time – but all it got me was a constituency internship (with a different MP and party) when I had finished my degree. I work in a different sector now – both experiences were quite dispiriting – especially the second one, we were like slave labour
  • Let’s hope so!
  • Everyone who worked there started as an intern (there or in another office), and they all started real jobs immediately after finishing their internship. It was made clear that the experience could act (if I wanted) as a firm gateway to employment.
  • Only time will tell. Fingers crossed…
  • Perhaps, but it really shouldn’t have; I suppose it proves I wasn’t in Jail… then again I had to forsake my JSA to do it.
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