Want to work in PR? That'll be £2,000

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Hot on the heels of a recent exposé into unpaid PR internships, it appears the Conservatives have now stepped in to fuel the debate.

At a sensitive time for the PR industry, the Tories have come under fire for auctioning internships to privileged supporters. According to the Mail, a one-week internship at a top London PR agency went for £2,000 at a recent fundraiser. 

While perhaps distasteful, this practice is nothing new. The moral of this particular tale seems quite simple: want to work in PR? Have parents that can buy you a placement, sweetie darling.

Now we’re not misguided enough to think that work experience doesn’t have a valuable place in PR. It’s an industry where grads are expected to learn by doing rather than theorising.

However, long-term, unpaid placements are exploitative – plain and simple. As a fledgling journalist in London, there were two routes to employment: live within the M25 or have parents who could support you financially. If you didn’t meet the right geographical or financial criteria, access was resolutely denied.

Grads should have access to work experience to get a taste of the workplace, but they should also have access to long-term placements that offer a structured training programme and remuneration for their time. With university fees potentially ruling out a whole generation of prospective students, on-the-job learning is going to be more important than ever.

If internships are to be sold off to the highest bidder, PR runs the risk of becoming synonymous with wealth and connections rather than skill and talent. And when searching for the next generation of PR consultants, we know who we’d rather choose.