THE BLOG

We'll End Long-Term Unpaid Internships

19/04/2015 23:44 BST | Updated 19/06/2015 10:59 BST

It seems so nice, doesn't it? You're desperate to get a first job in the arts - working in a gallery, or front of house in a theatre, or as a runner for a TV or film company - anything, just so long as it's a first rung on the ladder. You've applied for job after job and not even got an interview.

And then an aunt, or a cousin, or maybe a school friend of your father who lives in London sorts out a place for you. The only downside? It's a six month unpaid internship. If you can possibly afford to live without pay for that long, you take it. Of course you do.

Sadly, that's the pattern for thousands of young people today. The trouble is, it's a pattern that has played a pernicious role in the arts and the whole of the creative industries. It means that the only people who can afford to start out in the arts are those with families who can support them financially. It means that personal connections rather than talent are the deciding factor in whether people get on. It means that many thousands of young people view the arts as an impossible career option for them. It makes the media sector something of a self-perpetuating circle of friends and acquaintances, which in turn means that British film, TV, theatre and video games lose out on exceptional talent from working class and BAME backgrounds.

When the first ladder in a career in the creative industries requires a financial leg-up, it is little wonder that it was almost impossible to spot a black face at the BAFTA and Olivier Awards ceremonies this year.

That's why it is so important that we put an end to long-term unpaid internships. Of course a work or college placement or a short work experience programme is different, but for anything longer than four weeks interns should be able to expect that they will be paid. They are employees and employers.

We want to go further, too. We will help arts organisations take on apprentices and we are keen that our Universal Jobs Guarantee for any young person out of work for a year or more will also apply to the creative industries. That will not only give young people their first job in the arts but help organisations grow with a six-month government funded post.

Some of the effects of the policy we have announced will not be felt immediately. But if we are to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance to get on in the arts, we have to end the nepotism and unpaid internships. And I believe that in the end we will all see the benefits in terms of a wider participation in the arts of people from every background, opening the arts up to new audiences, and enhancing the vibrancy of our national culture and heritage.