Joseph Heller hit the nail on the head; ‘That’s some catch, that Catch 22’ – especially when applied to work, you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job....
That’s why internships and work experience placements are so invaluable.
In the North East, not only are they like gold dust, but their value is often compromised by a combined lack of thought and planning on the part of the student and the employer with the result that the only new skills the candidates learn is how to work the photocopier, or how to manage the tea round.
The North East Chamber of Commerce recently highlighted how businesses are bemoaning the fact that school leavers and graduates aren’t ready for the world of work because they lack relevant work experience and key skills.
Speaking as one of those young people it is extremely difficult to get in to business to acquire these skills because so few companies in this region offer meaningful internships or work placement opportunities.
In London and the South East most companies have wised up to the benefit and value of interns. In some industries the balance has shifted the other way, sparking criticism that a new era of exploitation has emerged with businesses offering unpaid internships to cover roles that would previously have been done by paid members of staff. This is particularly true in the creative industries of fashion and journalism where junior roles are largely filled by unpaid interns.
That said, most young people are grateful for these much needed opportunities, especially if they land a role with a top brand, or company in London.
This is yet another reason why it is so important that more companies in the North East open their doors to potential new interns because most people cannot afford to up sticks and go to London to work for nothing.
I have been very fortunate landing an internship with business improvement district company, NE1 Ltd here in Newcastle.
I’ve been working throughout the summer and am continuing during my final year balancing the demands of my course with the part time work which I know is invaluable in helping shape my CV and personal experience. I am also lucky to be loving it and gaining new skills and confidence working within a small marketing team.
I’m not alone in wanting to gain this vital experience but I do know that I am one of the lucky ones.
My course tutors are keen to encourage all my fellow students to get ongoing placements or internships during our three-year course but many have had to leave the region to do this meaning that they can only work during the holidays.
Another recurring problem many have encountered is that the quality of the role and tasks they are given are menial and don’t enhance their knowledge or experience – all they end up doing is standing at the photocopier, or doing the tea round. Don’t get me wrong, both tasks have their place when you’re starting out in a new team but they are worthless if that’s the only thing you get to do.
My role at NE1 has been interesting and varied, I’ve slotted into the team and feel the contribution I am making is valuable not just for me but for NE1. I know I am doing something worthwhile and gaining experience in event management as well as updating the website, attending meetings and learning on the job in the role of an assistant marketing executive.
Geographically I haven’t had to go far to gain this experience but hope for the sake of others in this region that more employers will wise up to the need to offer internships to ensure that when students do leave school, college or university that they are equipped with skills and experience and are ready for the world of work.
If North East businesses help shape the skill set of these students they will be ready and able to fill roles within the region’s labour market when they graduate.
Thanks to NE1 Ltd, I know I will be.
Chloe Marsh is a BA Hons Fashion Communications Student at Northumbria Final and intern at NE1 Ltd.