Why Unpaid Internships are Wrong

Why Unpaid Internships are Wrong … Almost all the time!

T_GreyscaleOriginalNot many things are black & white in life and despite the headline of this article, there is some room for grey in this debate. However, I still believe firmly that people should be paid for their work (even the fact that you need to state that should raise alarm bells).

I feel sorry for performance analysis departments that are under-funded. It must be difficult knowing the job you could do if only you had an extra pair of hands. I get that, but I think until the personnel in clubs make a stand it won’t change. Students are (wrongly at times) being sold a dream that if you do this free work there is a job at the end of it – but how often is that happening.

I read this article Do Unpaid Internships Lead to Jobs? Not for College Students, and it had the following graph from a very interesting research study

NACE_Internships_Jobs_2013 (1)

The Exceptions:

Ok so there are some exceptions where interning can be a win-win for both clubs and students. Here are my 4 exceptions to working for free;

  1. Requirement of an Undergrad Degree
  2. Short term contract – not longer than 3 months
  3. If there is a genuine internship programme, clear aims, reporting and a development pathway (>12 months)
  4. Amateur club genuinely looking for a volunteer

After these 4 I can’t come up with a legitimate reason to hire someone for free. I honestly think anything other than those listed just isn’t right.  Last month, British MPs voted overwhelmingly for a motion to end unpaid internships and for a “four-week rule” which would cap unpaid work experience to four weeks, after which interns would automatically become “workers” and entitled to pay. It will be interesting to see if this makes it’s way into law!


Supply and Demand

The truth is that there are more and more students chasing those dream jobs and while the number of analysts per club is probably on the rise – The supply will always outweigh the demand. As long as someone is willing to work for nothing, there is less pressure on Performance Directors to use up some of their budget actually paying for staff.

I have been fortunate enough in my business to hire staff for the last 3 years. Often these are short-term contracts from 2 – 6 months. I’m sure I could have people ‘intern’ (and I get no shortage of offers) but I just wouldn’t feel right. As an employer I feel I get more from staff that are paid. And it allows me pick from a bigger pool of people, not just those who can afford to work for free.

Things Have Changed

I can see that things have changed a bit. More of the jobs advertised on this site now come with some sort of salary, often it can just be minimum wage or perhaps just stating that there will be a salary.While not ideal – I do think this is very different to 12 or 18 months ago when the majority of jobs were Unpaid!! For the time being any payment is better than none.

Who knows how this will play out. While it will be interesting to see if any laws are passed – I’m sure there will be loopholes and ways to get around it. The change has to be a shit it mind-set and funding from the top. If that’s not forthcoming – well doesn’t that tell is everything about how the ‘front office’ views Performance Analysis???

Got your own thoughts? I would love to hear them.

*Please note that this is not a go at any one club or particular job (no situations are black and white) – rather it’s a comment on the industry in general and how it values staff. This is not a unique situation to Performance Analysis or Sport but that doesn’t mean we should just ignore it. 



Rob Carroll. Founder of The Video Analyst.com Performance Analyst. Always learning.