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Broad background for internships

27 July 2011

David Willetts MP

BIFM has endorsed a new best practice code which aims to improve the quality of workplace internships and access from across the social spectrum.

The code was launched with the support of Universities Minister, David Willetts, and the full backing of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). “This is a very important step to widening access to professional careers, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds,” he said.

The ‘Common Best Practice Code for Quality Internships’ encourages fair and equal access particularly to the professions and emphasises intern recruitment in an open and rigorous way.

The code defines high-quality internships as typically around three months’ duration, although they can vary from at least six weeks to no longer than 12 months, depending on individual needs. The code does not cover short-term work experience schemes, placements that are a compulsory part of education or genuine volunteering.

Internships must comply with all the provisions of current employment legislation, including the National Minimum Wage (NMW). The legislation ensures that all workers in the UK who are over compulsory school leaving age are entitled to be paid at least the NMW, unless they are covered by an exemption.

The code sets out six principles of best practice: preparation; recruitment; induction; treatment; supervision and mentoring; and certification, reference and feedback.

The initiative originated with the report from Alan Milburn’s Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, published under Labour in 2009. The report led to a reinvigorated Gateways to the Professions Collaborative Forum which commissioned a number of projects through sub-groups. BIFM was represented on two of these.

BIFM’s Chief Executive, Ian Fielder, was a member of the working group that developed the internships code. Speaking shortly after the launch, he said: “BIFM welcomes the code; indeed we were instrumental in developing it. It is important that internships deliver real value for both the individual and the organisation.

“Internships can bridge the gap between education and professional employment, providing valuable experience for the intern and access to talent for the organisation. However, opportunities for internships must be open and they should not be exploited as a source of cheap, even free, labour. The Institute will be encouraging all its Corporate Members that offer internships to sign up to the Code.”

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