Visual Artists Ireland receives constant comment about internships and requests to advertise a wide variety of these opportunities during the year. We also receive much comment from our members who ask why we are advertising opportunities that refuse to pay. We conducted a survey through our website. The answers to the question “Should Visual Artists Ireland advertise unpaid internships?” were:
- Only if the internship clearly follows VAI’s Internship Best Practice Guidelines (43%, 70 Votes)
- No (42%, 69 Votes)
- Yes (15%, 25 Votes)
It is clear from this that we have quite a split vote between the terms of the conditions we should advertise them and that we should not advertise them at all if there is no payment. Therefore, we have decided to advertise only when there is an undertaking from the organisation that they fully adhere to our Internship Guidelines.
The basics consider the following conditions:
Definition of the internship
An internship should:
provide a valuable supported learning experience; provide mentorship; allow an individual to develop or enhance skills that are applicable to their chosen area;
ensure the development of interpersonal work relationships; enable the candidate to learn good work habits such as communication, time and project management skills;
offer networking opportunities that will lead to paid employment or help to further the intern’s career in other tangible ways.
An internship is not Volunteering, Student Placement, Apprenticeship or Work Experience.
A Internship MUST be offered with the following Written Agreement:
- Each intern should be provided with a contract / letter of understanding outlining the role and responsibilities within the organisation that will be allocated to the intern. A same checklist is provided in the Guidelines.
- An intern should be provided with a defined role and job title.
- An internship should be short term and ideally between three and six months.
- Many interns have some experience and qualifications that would be advantageous to an organisation.
- An internship should be either the first experience of a role or an advancement from a voluntary position. In order to achieve this supportive and advantageous internship; one which will provide a meaningful experience and enhance an interns employability in the future; there should be a clear set of achievable objectives from the outset. These include transparency on day-to-day activities and responsibilities and clarity of progression within the organisation (if applicable). In general all interns should be given a level of responsibility that will further their experience.
- Interns should be recruited in the same way as regular employees of an organisation, with proper consideration given to how their skills and qualifications fit the tasks they will be expected to undertake.
- Recruitment should be conducted in an open and transparent way to enable fair and
equal access to available internships.
- Before the intern starts, a written contract should be put in place defining the intern’s working hours, the length of the internship, the intern’s goals and their obligations.
- Any training the intern will require for their role should be planned in advance. This plan should be shared with the intern on their first day. The training should include a health and safety induction tailored to the individual organisation.
- Organisations should ensure that there is a dedicated person(s) to supervise the intern and conduct regular performance reviews. This person should provide ongoing feedback to the intern, be their advocate and mentor during the period of the internship, and conduct formal performance reviews to evaluate the success of their time with the organisation.
Payment & Duration
- Where possible the intern should be paid the National Minimum Wage. At the very least Host Organisations should cover necessary work-related expenses incurred by the intern: travel to, from and during work. This will ensure wider access and allow people from varied economic backgrounds to access internships.
Please note: It is a complete exception that VAI will advertise who hold to the minimum requirements. Preference will be made for organisations who are clearly providing a minimum of minimum wage positions.
A detailed personalised reference should be provided at the end of the internship .
Health & Safety: The Host Organisation must be fully compliant with current workplace health and safety and all other legal requirements.
Garda Vetting: The Host Organisation has responsibility to ensure that the appropriate process is applied to placements that require Garda vetting. Interns must agree to comply with requests for Garda Vetting where necessary.
Annual Leave: Interns are entitled to all Public Holidays and 1.75 days annual leave for each month they participate in an internship.
Sick Leave: The maximum cumulative sick leave permissible over the course of an internship is five working days over a three month internship; ten working days over a six to nine month internship.
So, our answer is Yes, we will advertise your internship opportunity if it complies in full with the above best practice guidelines. We suggest that annual planning both logistical and financial should have clear allowances made to ensure that organisations use internships in the meaningful way that benefits all.