Internship’s The Thing

Trends come and go. In everything, there is a trend. So, perhaps unsurprisingly trends are readily coming and going within the theatre world, and none more prolific than that of internships. There appears to be a steadily growing number of internships around theatre and the arts popping up each month, and it looks set to stay.

Whilst theatre internships are a great way for participants to get hands on experience within a certain role in theatre, it is gradually getting more alarming by how many internships are currently being advertised for. A few years ago internships were hard to come by, and now, it would appear even the smallest of companies are offering them.

The question is then, does the value of an internship drop because of the vast amount of internships which are available out there? Much like how there has been steadily growning talk how the number of school leavers taking up university places are causing the affect of a degree to mean less, and now a masters is the thing to have, or rather, the thing to get you anywhere.

When applying for a job after doing an internship, do you get any points for being slightly higher up than others because you have done an internship with a company? I’m not quite so sure that this is the case anymore… where every small to large company is offering an internship, it has to surely affect the number of people applying for jobs in the arts. If the majority of people are doing internships, then the majority of people will have them, so does it actually get you anywhere?!

Of course there will be varying degrees of arguments over this opening of theatre internships across a wide sector, yet it seems clear that the main reason behind this has to be money. What with the United Kingdom still struggling to get out of our recession, and employment figures dancing around a rock bottom low, securing jobs in any industry is proving hard. So how does a company get extra support, and fulfill certain demands within their work, without having to add a x amount of salary to the table… the answer, an internship.

Internships are not paid, however often a company will pay for travel expenses or lunch – or indeed, sometimes nothing. The participant of the internship will be assisting a certain department or person within the company, and effectively will be an extra pair of hands to help out – a pair of hands that doesn’t cost thousands of pounds each year.

I might be making it out that the thought of internships are a bad thing, and that companies are cashing in on voluntary work, but this is of course not true. Internships are a great way for someone to get a step up into an industry that they are interested in working in. It gives them experience professionally and also connects them to industry professionals. So, it works in everyone’s favour. Or does it?

A quick look at an arts jobs site such as ArtsJobs.org.uk and you can see the extent of the amount of internships available. Last week alone saw a total of 14 internships for London alone being advertised. This is an astronomical figure, as each of these internships means one less of a paid job. Does this mean that the jobs that are becoming available are being swamped by applicants? Yes. Often a simple box office or admin role within the theatre being advertised will gain 300 plus applicants, a figure which is a certain sign of the times.

Whilst theatre internships offer great work experience the impact that it is having upon the jobs sector is becoming more clear, only time will tell how much so.

Thinking of doing an internship? Then check out A Younger Theatres Guide to Internships

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3 Responses to Internship’s The Thing

  1. Gemma says:

    I have an intern working with me and she is an absolute god send. As the sole marketing person within the company I struggle to keep on top of things and an intern provides an extra pair of hands. Internships are a great way to gain experience but shouldn’t take the place of paid positions which seems to increasingly be the case. More internships are becoming available as employers realise they can’t afford to pay someone to do the job. This is going to have a dire effect on the arts industry in the long terms as professionals leave the industry due to a lack of paid positions.

  2. sam says:

    I am lucky enough to be part of an amazing organisation now in a paid role and there is no way i would be if i hadn’t taken on internships. I was an inturn for 5 different companies both in London and New York and the skills i learnt doing them far exceeded those learnt at university.
    I now offer internships and everyone who has worked with me has gone on to employment within the sector.
    I think the key is that inturnships should be good quality, not just fixing Excell spreadsheets and making tea but actually taking on an element of project management and learning other transferable skills.

  3. stoy says:

    I started as an intern at a tiny theatre company in California and lucked out and got hired when the one full time administrator left. My problem now is that I feel like there is nowhere left to move up within the company since it is so small. I feel like I have no choice but to go back to square one and find another internship at a larger company (in New York) in order to further my career. Thoughts?

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