It should be obvious but if you need convincing, here’s why you should pay interns:
Paid Internship in Public Sector
I started an internship in a central government department 3 months after graduation; I applied for the position through the Graduate talent pool. This internship was for a 3 month period (later extended to 6) and paid c. £24,000 pa (+ pension & standard civil service benefits). I really enjoyed my time there and felt that I learnt a lot; I was entrusted with important tasks and even given the opportunity to lead on certain high profile projects.
The team I worked with were very friendly and supportive. I was consistently involved in team and group meetings which enabled me to gain a greater understanding of my role and the workings of my team and the department. I was provided with clear guidance on what was expected of me, and was even supported in attending training courses and shadowing ministers/civil servants.
Unfortunately, I was told that, whilst the team would have liked to have kept me on, the fact that I was not recruited through standard civil service methods, and ongoing budget cuts and headcount reductions, made this impossible. Nonetheless, I feel that this (PAID) internship was incredibly valuable, and that it was an excellent example of all that internships should be about.
Unpaid Internship in Private Sector
After this I moved to London and sought full time employment, or just temping work. I was unsuccessful and after a few months I was offered an unpaid 3 month internship at a small private company in the centre of London. I have been in this position for about a month now. My transport expenses are paid and I am allowed a couple of pounds a day towards lunch.
The bulk of my work consists of simple administrative tasks but it obviously has a value as much of it is presented to clients. I have not been given particularly clear guidance on what is expected of me, nor on best practice within the sector. I have been repeatedly left out of team meetings and I feel that the opportunities to gain experience and improve my skills are very limited. I have found that I am considerably less motivated in this roll than in my paid internship, where I felt far more valued. Despite the fact that I am now haemorrhaging money living in London, I feel that I need to persist with this internship to demonstrate both private sector experience and commitment; even though the development prospects are limited and the employment possibilities virtually nil.
Soon after completing this internship the money I saved from the Civil Service internship will be gone, and I will not be able to continue living in London. I have continued to apply for paid positions whilst in this second internship, with no success. I am doubtful that this unpaid internship will have been worth the expense; it adds little to my CV. I am unsure what I will do if I am unable to find paid employment soon.