Over the last few days, following an article in the Brighton Argus, there have been some comments made about BHT’s decision to launch its Intern Programme. Of course with the scandalous revelations this weekend regarding unpaid labour and the stewarding of Jubilee events, the focus undoubtedly would return to the merits and, more to the point, negative sides of internships.
One critic on Twitter has written “so shocked Brighton Housing Trust, which has an honourable history promoting social justice, is joining workfare – why? Unpaid internship undermines labour markets – flooding job market with unpaid work is no solution to unemployment!”
BHT is offering 40 unpaid internships to its current and former clients. We wish they could be paid positions but the current economic climate does not allow this. It is our ambition to pay not just the National Minimum Wage, but to pay the Brighton Living Wage which is higher.
This is not “workfare”. Under workfare, recipients have to meet certain participation requirements to continue to receive their welfare benefits. An important criterion for our programme is that participants engage voluntarily in the programme. We are not engaged with any of the government backed schemes.
Those who are taking up the opportunities we are offering are current and former clients of BHT. Many of them will have had years of unemployment. They will have addressed the causes that led them, for example, to homelessness, addiction, and mental ill health. While they are able and talented, they lack experience of the workplace. Gaining such experience makes a difference between long-term unemployment and securing jobs.
We didn’t launch the BHT Intern Programme without first consulting clients and making sure that they were happy with what we were proposing. Without the support of potential beneficiaries we would not have made to the investment to ensure that this is a good programme.
Many employers, including BHT, are spoilt for choice when it comes to filling vacancies in the current market. BHT has a commitment that 15% of our staff will be former clients by the end of 2013. Currently 30 (12%) of our staff are former clients. With the Intern Programme I anticipate that we will easily exceed that 15% target.