An uninspiring internship?

We have been critical in the past of companies like Intern Star who aim to match companies with cheap graduate labour, and make a profit as well.

Inspiring Interns is another such company – which boasts on their website of having 10+ interns working for them at any one time.

A week or so ago we received an account of an internship with them which read more like an advert. We don’t run this site to give free publicity to companies we don’t agree with, so in the interests of fairness we asked another ex-intern to write a rebuttal. Both accounts are below, and you can make up your own minds…

I am currently completing a placement at graduate internship agency called Inspiring Interns. And it’s a company that lives up to its name.

I have found that an ABB A-levels, a 2:1 from a red brick uni and a MA leaves me close, yet so far from an elusive full-time ‘graduate’ job. To my frustration even ‘graduate entry level’ jobs require experience of some sort.

Graduates are faced with a catch 22 situation. Without a job, you can’t get any experience, but without experience you can’t get a job. That’s where Inspiring Interns comes in.

They hook you up with a company who will take you on and train you. The company will pay for your travel and lunch expenses, which many scream is exploitation, but I think is the lucky break that most graduates desperately need. And it’s one of the few offers open to them. Moreover, the majority of Inspiring’s internships lead to paid, full-time roles.

After many a day looking for jobs online, I opted to work for free at Inspiring Interns because I wanted to get out of my house, and proactively do something to get a job.

I’m very lucky. I’m not on the dole. Because if I was, I wouldn’t be allowed to take up this opportunity. I’m not working in Mc Whatever to pay the rent, because I live at home. To put it simply, I’m relying on my parents. But it’s the only way I can move my life forwards.

Most people wait for lucky breaks. I went to Inspiring Interns because they bring them to you.

Across the world, millions of graduates, are sitting at home waiting for a break. They are Not in Education, Employment or Training. Having been told my parents, teachers and politicians, throughout my life that an education will get you ahead, many young people are sat at home disillusioned and depressed, or working in a McDead-end job wondering why on earth they tried so hard at getting ahead in the first place. Luckily with Inspiring Interns, I no longer need to be a NEET.

And the rebuttal:

As a recent intern with friends currently looking for internships, I have recently been made aware of an organisation called Inspiring Interns which proclaims itself as where ‘great interns meet great companies’.

It also proudly boasts that they should know about interns as they ‘typically have 10+ at a time’.

The problem with this marketing spiel is that Inspiring Interns is actually exploiting young people in order to make a quick buck in the recession. You see, none of the interns on their books seem to be paid.

Under their costs section, it details how Inspiring Interns gets £500 per month for arranging the internship – while the intern only receives £220 at most for lunch and travel expenses.

Now, I’m no expert in the legal ramifications of what this organisation does, but this looks to be clearly in breach of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 (NMWA). By also lining up companies to take interns on which might conflict with the NMWA, Inspiring Interns doesn’t seem to be letting these companies know that they might be breaking the law by offering these internships.

On top of the very dubious work of Inspiring Interns in relation to the NMWA, the company also benefits from using the government’s very own Graduate Talent Pool to advertise these clearly exploitative positions which only a select few can afford. This is somewhat at odds with the whole ‘Backing Young Britain’ campaign the government has been running in recent months…

Oh, and BT – who recently axed their Graduate scheme – awarded Inspiring Interns a trophy for ‘Essence of the Entrepreneur’. An AWARD?! This shows how out of touch BT clearly are if they are handing out awards to people and organisations who are using the national problem of youth unemployment during the recession to make money out of skirting round the NMWA.

I hope that one day soon organisations like Inspiring Interns are not accepted by either interns looking for an internship or organisations who want to commit to offering young people an opportunity which doesn’t involve exploiting them.

Tell us what you think…

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16 Responses to “An uninspiring internship?”

  1. 1 vox-popPRcareers 04/23/2010 at 5:57 pm

    I would rather be in a job paying minimum wage than working an internship that pays nowt.

    This whole idea of people not being paid whilst working full time is just LUDICROUS, in the words of the all-knowing Duncan Bannatyne.

  2. 2 Gareth 09/22/2010 at 3:44 pm

    You are completely unfair and out of order for having a go at Inspiring Interns.

    They do a great job and yes – they charge for their services – but this because they are a RECRUITMENT company – how much do you honestly think Reed etc are charging for their services?!

    They are a business, not a charity and hence, yes, have to make money. But at least they are doing it helping young people to get that essential first foot on the career ladder. Do your research before you start the attacks…

    • 3 internsanonymous 09/22/2010 at 8:16 pm

      Hi Gareth, unfortunately all the information we have published on the blog can be found on Inspiring Interns’ website- we published the more negative post that was sent to us because it tallied with this information and as you can see we have published a positive report of the work that Inspiring Interns does as well- it’s really for readers to decide what they think about Inspiring Interns (although obviously you know which side we come down on!)

      There is one crucial difference between Reed and Inspiring Interns and that is if you are temping for Reed or if you get a job through Reed then you will be paid a wage, not just expenses. So we’re just going to have to agree to disagree…

      Rosy, IA

      • 4 Gareth 09/23/2010 at 2:41 pm

        I did temp through Reed once actually, and basically got given a call centre job (after weeks can I add) – as did 5 other of my friends / associates – ones that though paid – were poorly done so (£6.50 ph), were demoralising, uninspiring and had little further prospects (except perhaps making it to ‘team leader’ a stupid title for someone willing to take on more stress for very little extra pay). Whereas my internship (arranged through Inspiring Interns) led to a more challenging, technical, enjoyable and higher paid position.

        So yes, I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree…

  3. 5 kay 08/31/2011 at 3:26 pm

    I think this is quite a pointless article. Firstly the title give the impression that the internships that Inspiring Interns arrange do not give decent training or experience…and secondly you seem to attack them from making money which is what business is all about. Even work experience for graduates is hard to come by these days so a company that sets students up with decent internships deserves money in my opinion.

    FYI ‘internships’ have been going on for decades especially in sectors where it is difficult to gain entry there just haven’t been internship company’s and sites to help. Im a graduate with a 2.1 in politics and international relations, I’m not a moron and still cant get a job in this climate. I live at home and would happily do a 2-3month internship where they pay for travel expenses and lunch to learn expertise in difficult areas because without experience graduates are getting Flaming nowhere. That’s the sad realistic truth of the situation now and grads who don’t realise it and don’t have experience aren’t likely to get anywhere… I wish them luck in their break because frankly it’s unlikely to come.

  4. 6 Katie 09/22/2011 at 12:25 am

    Internships which do not pay minimum wage should be abolished- SIMPLE

  5. 7 Sammy 04/18/2012 at 2:56 pm

    I guess like a lot of others I spent months looking for a job, before coming across Inspiring Interns. I completed an internship arranged by them, which did lead to my current full time position that I’m very happy with, here are my thoughts..

    As a company, they make their money from getting desperate people to work for free, and charging companies £500 per month for the privilege (+10% of the interns 1st year salary if they are kept on for full time work). This to me is a catch 22, as a company paying Inspiring Interns £500 p/m, and around £100-£200 in expenses might as well be paying a graduate minimum wage to do the same thing, which seems a but absurd. On the flip side, it is very useful to have an agency finding and collating information on companies , and sorting through candidates, and this can’t be done without them charging.


    I was very lucky to be living at home during the internship, so had no rent to pay, and they also let me work at the internship part time, whilst I worked a retail job as well. There are a lot of people to whom this kind of arrangement is not an option, and are excluded from this opportunity, which is a downside for sure.

    I didn’t mind working for free too much, as I knew it was short term, had prospects and meant I was (finally) moving forward.

    I think Inspiring Interns is one of the better agencies. They genuinely did seem to care, were very clear about what expenses I would receive, were very upfront about which opportunities could lead to employment, and had a lot of quality positions that I’d struggled to find elsewhere.

    I don’t want to sing their praises too much as they do exploit people, but they do at least deliver on what they promise too, which is a far cry from the job centre forcing you to work at Pound Land….

    It’s a luxury but if you can afford it I would say it’s a probably a good way in to the world of work.. :/

  6. 8 I need a job in digital marketing asap 07/31/2012 at 4:36 pm

    Here’s my negative personal review about Inspiring Interns from recent experiences I had with them…

    I’ve actually had problems with Inspiring Interns, not only am I currently fustrated with their lack of replies, even their video interview room was entirely unprofessional for an agency who charge so much as their “catch 22″. So they can make you walk through their Chronicles of Narnia-like entrance room. You’d think they’d invest in a sound proof video room for starters and their employees would know not to cut you off until your final sentence. With the work crew installing a new door in the next room using power drills and sanders, my video CV went great on top of the music they had on loud in their main office room after lunch.

    When I went to the interview they said my location might be a problem to companies due to commuting train fares into London (around £400-500 p/m). In my case it is. Before leaving the interview I went through a list of roles in order of preference for their HR manager, she said they’d pass them onto their account managers, I wasn’t satisfied when I gave them to my preference but due to my location she said companies may not be happy with the transport fee I have in getting into London. MP’s have second homes for christs sake, so why can’t I have a small fee for 3 months? Even if the info is true above, that £200 p/m will half my transport fee from Inspiring Interns, of which I’m willing to pay negatively (as I have no retail job etc) the other half myself. In addition the manager also said they’d lost some of my applications, a quick glance at their crappy inbox system and you can see why.

    I almost got a local role through Inspiring Interns, but lost out due to experience which is funny as its the same loop I’m stuck in as one of the above posters, where I need exp to get a job, but the job requires exp, but compounded by my location where no work in digital marketing exists.

    I thought this agency was my salvation, but like others, man was I wrong! At least so far. Seems as if companies that go through agencies like this also want exp in addition to free labour that I’m still willing to do if it lands me a footstep in the door where I can take it from there and forge a successful career. Three months is a long time to decide if an intern is right for your company. If they get on well with others than I see why not once if you’ve trained them correctly to do a job other than make tea or coffee, as most people have a pair of legs these days to do it themselves, thus that chore makes it a waste of time for both parties but the agency getting paid for doing nothing.

    I wrote an email to them explaining my situation and current fustration with lack of replies from other roles I applied for, whilst they replied in an understanding way about how fustrating it is atm to get jobs etc, they said I was not the only candidate. Obviously! Also, I was told they find it hard to ask individual companies for feedback, how so? Don’t think their HR department’s are that busy really, 8hrs a day and it only takes 2mins to type an email on SWOT of a candidate using just the S and W. Lastly, they did recommend to me that I proactively apply for jobs directly companies in London.

    So I read some sites and looked at what I had to offer to companies I researched, (I have no achievements and lack of direct exp) etc, I sent out tailored letters and my CV to people within the agencies I thought that I’d like to work for within London. Only one came back not willing to even do a 50/50 split on transport fees (£400-500). Which is as much as Inspiring Interns fees are the first place according to above posters. It does make you wonder what recruitment agencies’ actually do for their fee once you’re in an intership, most likely nothing as you’re doing the work, not them. More of which could be used for your transport fee!

    During this time, I got a kick in the teeth from them, I was sent an email from one of their recruiters called Matt, asking in a templated email, if I was still looking for work. I mean seriously?! No replies and you ask me if I’m still looking for work?! Er… yes! I wrote back even more annoyed at lack of their ability to think about email lists and spam.

    They did apologise and tried to smoothed it over about difficult times etc. I thought what the heck, keep smiling as I’m now toothless, no need to get annoyed at rubbish agencies doing their job. Heck, maybe I should become one of them, lots of their jobs going around, no need to care for candidates, just do what they all do, lack of replies etc etc. Can’t be that hard after the experiences I’ve been through!

    So after my “proactive” applying, I went back to them explained what I had done to improve the situation I was in. I wrote to the HR Manager Helen Vaughan asking for advice and further roles I’ve applied for, so far I have gotten no reply.

    I then wrote to Kelly Tackham another recruiter of Inspiring Interns and still haven’t got a reply, even asking if their HR manager was away as I’d had no reply. I also applied to other roles on their website, but got no personal reply other than the usual automated one, no probs with my spam filter. If they’re away, you’d thought they’d be more professional and set up an on leave automated reply.

    So great for the above ppl who got a role from the many who don’t and get ignored. Forget their notice of direct feedback replies to candidates etc on their FAQ’s, they certainly do if you don’t get fustrated with them and have experience for an internship, defeating the point of one in the first place.

    As England need more jobs for English people, agencies are making it worse. In one hand candidates like myself are having sucking more and more crap from agencies’ and companies’ in the hope of a job to kick start their career’s. On the other hand, I have a bridge 15mins away that looks very tempting (joke, probably a poor one, humour me). Even CV coaches contradict each other based on their own experience’s. Where’s the solution?

  7. 9 I need a job in digital marketing asap 07/31/2012 at 4:41 pm

    Sorry, I must remember to spell check when typing in rage mode.

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    Incredible quest there. What occurred after?
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  10. 12 Nathan Burton 05/24/2013 at 3:13 pm

    I have a friend working in recruitment. Apparently unpaid internships such as the ones offered by Inspiring Interns will be completely illegal soon. Good riddance to 21st slave masters! I don’t know how they can be proud of themselves.

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  1. 1 The murky Internship Alliance « Interns Anonymous Trackback on 06/20/2010 at 11:36 am
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We want this website to be a forum for interns to share their experiences and discuss the ethics of unpaid employment. Most importantly, we want this site to be a place where YOU can tell us your story.


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