Summer interns: cheap labour or valuable resource?

portfolioIf you’ve been left behind in the office while your colleagues are doing the conga in foreign climes, you could soon find yourself sitting next to a summer intern.

The seasonal influx of eager – and occasionally not-so-eager – wannabes into media and advertising offices has already begun. But will these young guns be ruthlessly exploited as free labour, left twiddling their thumbs in the corner, or given a genuine opportunity to learn from their chosen workplace and perhaps even contribute to its success?

The question is raised in the latest edition of Campaign by our columnist Ramsey Naja, chief creative officer of JWT MENA.  Naja argues that rather than giving interns the cold shoulder, agencies have a duty to welcome them through the door.

“Call me old-fashioned but I believe we have civic duties beyond our standard remit and taking in interns, working with them, putting up with their suspect hygiene and social media linguistics, training them and contributing to their formation – yes, even if they end up working for competitors – is something that should be cast in stone as a guiding principle for any agency,” he writes. “Putting up with – or, better, taking advantage of – ambitious grads is a must, the moment you find your inbox filling up with unsolicited and unbelievably pedantic CVs.

“But, strangely, such responsibility comes with obligations. Using interns as free labour is intellectual slavery, or simply theft. Not using them may be even worse for it denies them the opportunity to test minds still spurred by education, excited by the work environment and desperate to be free from the shackles of academia.”

This last point is an important one, because a lack of will to mentor, nurture and develop youngsters with raw talent is often cited as one of the critical failings of the Middle East’s ad industry. The point was made in a recent Campaign feature about the region’s new involvement in Portfolio Night (pictured above). If budding creatives, for example, cannot get their talent heard or seen on their own doorstep, what hope is there for the future?

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2 Responses to Summer interns: cheap labour or valuable resource?

  1. Adeline says:

    Nicely put Ramsey! but I wonder how many interns do you take in JWT offices every year? how many of them ever been hired in JWT? have you ever paid your interns?
    do you really believe that JWT’s creative Directors have been giving enough attention and guidance for their interns? seriously! it would be great if you walk the talk and if anything, JWT’s management should learn lessons from your columns and implement them internally before you start lecturing people. get real.

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