Agenda: unpaid internships can be a force for good [The Argus]

Agenda - The Argus, The Benefits of Unpaid Internships

The Benefits of Unpaid Internships (Brighton Housing Trust Intern Programme)

You’d think interns needed rescuing from indentured servitude, after all the kerfuffle about them at The Big Debate last week, but my unpaid internship with Brighton Housing Trust was just the job.

Business people of Brighton and Hove voted in favour of limiting unpaid internships to six months on Wednesday after heated discussions at The Big Debate.

I agree that interns should be paid the living wage whenever possible — and internships kept short — but for me an unpaid internship has paid off.

I’m four months into a six-month placement as Intern Fundraising and Publicity Officer at Brighton Housing Trust on their Intern Programme.

BHT offers advice, accommodation and support to vulnerable men and women in Brighton and Hove, Eastbourne and Hastings who are homeless or may have experienced homelessness, financial and housing insecurity or problems with drugs or alcohol.

My role is to help BHT’s Fundraising and Publicity Team communicate the charity’s messages, support fundraising activities and produce marketing and publicity materials.

I’ve written press releases, updated the BHT website, organised fundraising events and worked on funding bids — I’m not just there to make the tea, though as a Yorkshireman I do make a good brew.

The Intern Programme is an employability training programme funded by BHT and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

The programme was set up to help homeless or long-term unemployed men and women get the training, skills and experience they need to support them back into paid work.

It has allowed me to demonstrate my worth to potential employers, improved my job applications and interview technique, and moved me towards employment.

The programme began in January 2012 and had its first intake of interns in May 2012 — in the first year they worked with 38 men and women with half getting into sustained paid employment.

Part of the programme’s success is due to the dedicated mentors that provide on-the-job support and individualised personal support from the programme co-ordinator.

The people I work with are great — I’ve attended three external job interviews whilst on the programme and they supported me at every stage.

They’ve advised me of suitable job listings and encouraged me to apply for positions with the charity and BHT projects.

I’m devoted to working with voluntary groups and charities and hope to find employment with them in a communications or community fundraising role.

BHT has given me every chance to succeed in a competitive job market and done more than anyone else to improve my employment prospects.

Taking an unpaid internship is the best decision I’ve made — unpaid work is better than no work at all.

Originally published in the Business section of The Argus