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If you want to use an intern - pay them!

The unpaid intern debate is back in the news this week with announcements that HMRC will be probing the exploitation of interns in the PR industry. This comes on the back of reports that, of the 100  firms reported by Intern Aware, an incredible 10% were either PR agencies or companies advertising PR roles.

Now forgive me for potentially going off on a rant here, but is it really necessary for PR – and indeed any industry – to use unpaid talent?

In my view, if an individual at any level, and regardless of their background, is doing work for a company which it deems necessary, that person should receive payment for their services. Yes an intern will require a level of training and perhaps even more hand holding than someone with more experience would, but they can also prove invaluable for the business.

An intern will be coming into your company with a completely fresh perspective on business and employment in general, and believe it or not this can be a welcome break from the norm. In an ever changing business environment, fresh, innovative and creative ideas can provide a huge competitive advantage. However, sticking to the same skills sets and individuals from similar backgrounds is not conducive to this. Think about how you can be using your interns so not only do they learn, but your business also develops.

Finally, how can any industry expect to have a pipeline of skilled talent to become the leaders of the future if no one is willing to invest in the development of new skills? If, as so many business owners argue, students are leaving school, college, or university without the employment skills they need, why not develop these skills in your business yourself?

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