It's been an interesting couple of days .. I've been trying to follow all the comments on this debate across various blogs, LinkedIn and Twitter and it's fascinating to see the visceral reaction that the debate has provoked.
So what happened?
Yesterday morning James put the slaves.ie site live. The domain was registered by me back in February of this year, but,like so many side projects of ours, had been put to one side..Put on a virtual shelf ..
Where did this idea come from?
Earlier this year a few of us were chatting about how some companies abuse the concept of interns.
Paul created a twitter account
Both James and Stewart have blogged on the subject. I don't agree with everything the others have been saying, and I sincerely doubt they all agree with each other on everything either. However there are some points where I think we all agree.
I hadn't written about my views until now, (though I have ended up doing an interview or two about it in the last couple of days)
First things first.
I do not have an issue with the concept of interns and a lot of companies and organisations respect how internships can work for the benefit of all parties involved. However some companies abuse the "system". And that, in my opinion, is not right. I don't think it's ethical.
Running a business is not cheap and one of the biggest costs is staffing. However, staff are, in many respects, a company's single biggest assets. If you hire the right people and treat them properly then you can reap the rewards, but if you hire the wrong people and/ or treat them badly I don't see how it can work out well for anyone.
An intern should, in my view, gain from their time working in a company. A company obviously has to get something out of the relationship as well, even if it is just relatively cheap labour. However, and this is the key for me, an intern should not replace a "normal" employee. In fact if you look at the terms associated with "Job Bridge", for example, it's pretty clear what you can and can't use the system for:
The host organisation may not provide an internship opportunity under the Scheme to an individual they have existing employment relationship with
So you can't lay somebody off and re-hire them as an intern.
The host organisation currently may not have vacancies in the area of activity in which the internship is offered.
The internship will not be provided to displace an employee. The scheme administrator reserves the right to review cases where it is reported that this is the case.
So you can't replace your paid employees with interns or take on an intern instead of the more expensive staff member that you advertised last week ..
In our case, for example, we have an "intern" who works for us. He's doing things that our "normal" staff never get round to and we try to keep the work as varied as possible for him, so that he doesn't get bored. We didn't look for him - he came to us looking for the work. And we pay him properly.
Taking on an intern, for us at least, is not an easy thing to do. Most of the roles in the company require specialised knowledge. If we hire someone for our customer service team it can easily take 2 or 3 months for them to fully trained and able to work without close supervision. During that initial training period they're going to cost We're not going to take someone on for 2 or 3 months for that kind of role. We might take someone on for a contract job, but again, most of those types of roles are specialised.
The problem arises when companies take the idea of an "intern" and abuse it.
Advertising a full-time job or a contract job and calling it an "internship" is, in my opinion, an abuse.
Here's the kind of advert that annoys me:
There are plenty of qualified and skilled people out there who could fill that role, but expecting anyone to do all that without paying them? Not even a stipend .. nothing?
Of course, as several people have pointed out, nobody is forcing anyone to take up a position with a company if they feel that the conditions are unreasonable. However, it still doesn't make it right.
And using the defence that it's "creating opportunities" is incredibly weak. If you have an open position in your company, then why don't you simply hire someone to fill it?
And as for the LinkedIn discussion / debate / heated argument .. It's well worth reading through all the comments. Some of the points being raised by both sides of the debate are very valid and it's a healthy discussion. Unfortunately some people have descended into name calling, which I think is unfortunate.
As for the website and the hashtag .. It's provocative and some of the people using the hashtag are saying things that I'd never agree with, but that's the nature of hashtags or the internet in general. Once the "genie" is out of the bottle it's very hard to put it back in.
All in all it's an interesting debate and there's been some very healthy discussion.
Feel free to continue it (politely) in the comments below.