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KQD

Work Placements - Paid Or Unpaid?

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I have a question for all students and graduates out there. If your course has a work element in it, are you expected to find a placement yourself or via the University? Are the placements generally paid or unpaid? I am talking about long term placements here, say over 6 months.

 

I ask this because during a recent recruitment exercise we came across students and recent graduates prepared to work for free - saying that this was common practise.

 

Personally I find this a disgrace in an industry that claims to be professional, progressive and innovative that some employers are exploiting the vulnerability of those still in education or recently qualified trying to get a step on the work ladder. A few cases were given to me as examples by applicants - some from big name design businesses.

 

So I am interested in views here on this. As an employer I would never contemplate an extended unpaid placement. As a student I never did this. As a professional design I don't do free pitches and do not work for free (apart from charity or educational work). So why should anyone?

 

At the end of the day, it is up to the employer to choose the employee. There are mechanisms in place to undertake trial periods and ensure the chosen candidate is suitable, but the bottom line is they should still be paid for work done. What do you think?

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Yeah I agree, its bad enough that students have to pay thousands of dollars a year while they are in school, but then have to take an additional hit by working for free is just wrong.

 

I think it should be up to the universities though to stipulate that it has to be a paid work placement (as they did for mine here in Canada). That way there are no opportunities for this kind of exploiting to take place.

 

On the contrary though, if you can afford to work for free, getting the opportunity to work at a company like Ferrari would well worth having it on your resume even if it you weren't getting paid for it. But from a moral standpoint any companies practicing this kind of exploit should step up and pay their new interns, as its already hard enough to get ahead in this industry.

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That's the interesting thing. There are many professional bodies that service the product design business in different countries, yet I don't see many references to exploiting staff in their terms and conditions of membership. There is plenty about members not poaching work from others.

 

As a client I would be asking some serious questions of a design business that "employs" several unpaid interns, yet charges them out at full commercial rates. If the design industry wants to be taken seriously then it needs to get its house in order and this should become a core standard for any members of design business associations. Yet, it is those very companies that seem to be guilty. Not acceptable.

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Guest Buff

I totally agree.

 

I could grow my bussines much quicker with free labor and compete better than india or china, but \i'd rather go out of business than... well, lets not put too fine a point on it... take the p1$$

 

The bigger companies doing this clearly know no shame and I'm quite pleased to hear the odd few cases where things have gone horiblly wrong for them

 

there's an old proverb... "as you sow, so shall you reap"

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It is interesting that I posted a similar post to LinkedIn Industrial Design Group before I posted to this one. Not a single response. I would have thought, seeing as how that group claims to represent ID professionals across the globe that this would be a hot issue for discussion. Clearly not. Of course it could just be the new discussion formats at LinkedIn which seem to highlight esoteric discussion rather than genuine business issues.

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Even in China we should pay students for internships. I advise everyone to refuse unpaid internships. Don't accept unpaid internships, just because of the experience you can get. Companies hire students, because the students got something to offer that is valuable in terms of $$$. Therefore the companies should financially compensate in return.

 

@KQD Have you tried the Product Design Group? I think that group is a bit more active..

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I didn't even know there was a Product Design group! I have reposted to that as well and sent some messages to some industry body people for comments. Be interesting to see who responds and who ignores it.

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Guest lookdadnotunes

I did a sandwich course, lots of people did unpaid internships.

 

I actually took an internship which paid expenses. The expenses weren't enough to live on, though I was eligble of an erasmus grant, so actually did ok.

Whilst I was there we used to get lots of applications from graduates, some even with a fair amount of experience, prepared to work for nothing. It's a sad state of affairs really when you are working for free after 20k+ debt from unversity.

 

You just have to browse through the adverts on dezeen to see unpaid internships (or at least unpaid but with travel expenses) are very common place. Several very high profile companies.

 

 

I hate the idea of working for nothing, though I know of people who have done a few months of unpaid internship, which has led on to full-time employment with the company.

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I hate the idea of working for nothing, though I know of people who have done a few months of unpaid internship, which has led on to full-time employment with the company.

 

Yes that is the old carrot and stick argument. Do a bit for free and we'll see if we like it/you. You know after sifting through portfolios, doing interviews and selection if a candidate is of a certain standard. That is what a trial period is for, and during the trial the company should be prepared to invest in the short term to get something back in the long term.

 

Design is a people business. It is about individual skill and talent. Yet some of the big name businesses seem to be operating Victorian work practises. What irritates the hell out of me is that these self same businesses get awards and air time for their business skills.

 

Perhaps a director of a large design business would like to comment?

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OK here's a good one.

 

I was told today that the intern I have working for me right now has to pay the university £650 as a fee to the university for the year he is on placement. Is this common practise?

 

Now I can understand paying a fee like that if:

 

1. The university helped find the placement company

2. The university offered the placement company some kind of support and advice

3. The university kept in contact with the student via regular online tuition (bearing in mind the student is 200 miles from his University)

 

The answer to all the above is no, no and no. My question is how can they justify that kind of charge when many of the placements are unpaid anyway? if the students are charge say £3500 a year in tuition fees - a whole year of tutorials, studio support, lectures etc , how can the university possibly justify £650 for doing bugger all? You tell me.

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Guest lookdadnotunes
OK here's a good one.

 

I was told today that the intern I have working for me right now has to pay the university £650 as a fee to the university for the year he is on placement. Is this common practise?

 

Now I can understand paying a fee like that if:

 

1. The university helped find the placement company

2. The university offered the placement company some kind of support and advice

3. The university kept in contact with the student via regular online tuition (bearing in mind the student is 200 miles from his University)

 

The answer to all the above is no, no and no. My question is how can they justify that kind of charge when many of the placements are unpaid anyway? if the students are charge say £3500 a year in tuition fees - a whole year of tutorials, studio support, lectures etc , how can the university possibly justify £650 for doing bugger all? You tell me.

 

Yep, unfortunately this is standard.

 

I didn't get a penny's worth of advice or use out of the university that year.

Though they did send someone over to Spain where my placement was, for reasons I cannot fathom. It was a member of staff I had never met, and never met ever again since. They spent around 20 mins asking me stupid questions, filled out a form and then left. Presumably to do some sight-seeing or something.

 

 

After my year out, I found out one of my friends managed to de-register him self with the university, did his year placement, and then re-registered. As he wasn't an official student that year he didn't have to pay the £650.

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Guest nicanor

if it's for co-op credits, then the $$ goes into admin. In my school it's 1/2 price credits for co-ops vs in-class courses. Yes, the school does a lot less when their students do co-op interns, but still common practice to charge them something for the logistics.

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Guest HyPe!

During my education I have accepted both paid and unpaid placements. The unpaid placements were at least all-expense paid. At all places I was promised a position/partnership afterwards, if my projects would be successful. The projects were tremendously successful and even now I have not heard anything since other than that their business is prospering. What I have learned is that these companies rather take advantage of good-willing students. And since it is a constant stream of people willing to work for nothing, it is an easy workforce to depend on.

 

What is even worse: I know some graduates, who even after receiving their Engineer degrees accepted unpaid or low-paid intern positions just hoping to get a job after that. I don't have the luxury to afford an internship placement now because I simply need to pay my bills and have to take on a full paid job even if it doesn't have anything to do with my profession. IMHO this is simply distortion of competition and all designers should realise this. It brings down the status our profession, and since it is a so widely accepted phenomena, it probably won't change in the near future.

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Guest ID2010

Personally, i think unpaid internships are a disgrace. Not for the student, but for the company offering them. Though I do have strong disdain for the mediocre designers with rich parents that get further than good designers with average parents.

 

I would really like to see companies taking a stand against this. It would show them as forward thinking and strengthening the industry. I can imagine companies could use this anti-slavery thing to reinforce the value of their own work. After all, if someone is working for nothing what does that say about the companies attitude towards their contribution?

 

It's something that can only be fixed if the well respected design companies take a stand and lead the industry.

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