Opinion: From our Readers - Offer interns a positive experience

The debate around interns in PR raises important issues, but also makes sweeping generalisations (Opportunity or Exploitation?, 3 September).

Although we don't pay our interns a salary (as a charity we can't afford to) we do offer an attractive package of support and education in return for their time. This includes project work that is both stimulating and educational, on-the-job training, personal coaching, help with writing job applications, and interview practice. We also cover basic expenses and provide flexible working hours.

All our interns have been very bright and fast learners. Despite this, they've often lacked basic office skills. We allow people to develop these skills in a safe and supportive environment, and send them out into a competitive market better equipped to find paid employment.

Of course there is the potential for exploitation, but when handled correctly internships can be a positive educational experience. Instead of an outright ban, guidelines might be more appropriate.

Esther Freeman, PR & media manager, British Association for Adoption & Fostering ... but don't make them work for free

It is scandalous that young people are being taken advantage of through unpaid internships.

Those same organisations that boast about their CSR credentials, yet exploit undergraduates and graduate PROs working for nothing in the hope of landing a full-time job, should take a long hard look at themselves.

For one they are excluding all but middle class students who can afford to take these no-pay placements and for another they are breaking the minimum-wage law.

It's shameful that some agencies actually bill out interns' time to clients, yet are too mean to pay them. There is simply no excuse for not paying students a wage.

If many FTSE 100 companies recognise the enthusiasm, intelligence and ability students bring to their business and pay for them accordingly, why can't agencies?

The Institute of Public Policy Research's report on 31 July, Why Interns Need a Fair Wage, makes salutary reading.

Robert Minton-Taylor, associate senior lecturer, Faculty of Business & Law, Leeds Metropolitan University

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