With competition for jobs outwardly on the increase in this current economic climate, it seems as though the time-honoured arts internship may well be shifting dynamics. In these harsh financial times, is the temptation to exploit the qualified down-and-outs of the recession too much to resist?
The recession has given birth to the phenomena of the ‘experienced unemployed…’ and with that, internships appear to have become a unique way of commandeering those with acceptable familiarity for a few months free graft. A quick glance at many internship person specifications reveals that the skills being requested are far beyond the reach of the traditional theatre practitioner-in-waiting. And that even those possessing relevant skills are still being unfairly relegated to the category of ‘novice.’
Take this advertisement for Graduate Apprentice Community Arts Practitioner; which requests the applicant have “…basic multi-disciplinary performing arts skills with at least one area of specialism.” Not only is said intern expected to be a graduate (presumably from an arts based degree) but also to possess a multitude of skills and a specific area of expertise.
This particular internship does offer a salary, but it also requires a fixed 13-month commitment and neatly files the lucky selectee as ‘apprentice’ and recipient of a fairly basic wage… Pre-recession, anyone possessing such aptitudes would surely have been regarded as qualified and ready for official employment! Yet this organisation seems to be stating that the ‘chosen one’ may still have way to go.
All this having been said, we mustn’t downplay the merits of arts organisations offering these kinds of internships. They certainly ensure that (in these jobless times) those already resting on the initial rungs of the ladder do not find that they have no forum in which to use their acquired talents. And I’m sure some internships, are still being awarded in the traditional sense – to those with much promise but little experience.
However if nothing more, the kind of internships we see on offer today are a stark reminder of the times. He who once might have perched high on the seat of experience is forced to linger on lower rungs, simply to keep a hand in. With those who are yet to build up a portfolio of experience standing little chance of obtaining the coveted ‘break through’ internship.
This article was written by Fiona Mulvihill, a young writer who regularly writes for A Younger Theatre. If you are interested in doing an internship, see our guide of internships and also our comprehensive list of where internships are available.