With thousands of Graduates and youngsters eager for relevant experience within the media industry, the UK National Council for Work Experience are experiencing their busiest period yet. The Council’s brief is to promote, support and develop quality work experience for the benefit of students, organisations and the economy – particularly important given the number of unemployed 16-to-24 year olds in the UK rose recently to 952,000, the highest figure since records began in 1992.
With fewer jobs and tighter budgets across the global media sector, businesses will naturally be looking to offer placements – a rare opportunity for candidates to gain industry experience, enhance their CV and hiring capabilities. But on what terms should businesses offer such opportunities. Should they at least be covering expenses and a minimum wage? Laws vary from country to country but certainly in the UK limited term (2-4 weeks) unpaid experience is allowable. [The UK minimum wage for workers under eighteen years old is £3.57, a development rate <http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/nmw/#dev> of £4.83 per hour for workers aged 18-21 inclusive and £5.80 per hour for workers aged 22 years and older (rates from 1st October 2009). This is different in America, where each state is responsible for its own minimum wage rate.
The subject of payment and wages presents very different opinions from business to business. What is clear is that for individuals considering a career in television, work experience offers the chance to gain an insight into the industry and to learn about different job roles and working arrangements. Most importantly, it can help them to build up contacts, which as we all know, are hugely important in this industry.
In a difficult economic climate and ever-developing industry, it is unfortunate yet inevitable that exploitation takes place. However companies and bookers should remember that there is a huge gulf separating untrained workers vs. trained and experienced workers, though both are eager to develop their talents and experience.
Creating and educating new talent is vital for keeping the industry alive, that much is obvious. Work experience can be as beneficial to companies as it is to individuals. In monitoring an employee a company may well find an individual worth investing in, after all, where are tomorrow’s camera operators, cinematographers, make-up artists etc. coming from? Comments welcome!