CIPR research shows internships need to be fairer and more effective

New Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) research shows internships are failing as a means of increasing social and ethnic diversity in the Public Relations workforce and not providing consistent learning and development opportunities for aspiring professionals.

The CIPR Internship Survey, undertaken as part of the CIPR’s commitment to advocate a best-practice approach to Internships in Public Relations, gathered the views of approximately 400 CIPR student members.

One third of all respondents reported being financially incapable of undertaking a low-paid or unpaid internship, but only around half of those who had taken an internship were paid National Minimum Wage.

Little more than half of the respondents reported that all the internships they had undertaken helped prepare them for a career in Public Relations (57%) or were a valuable step towards securing their first job (58%).

Further findings in the research include:

  • Only 16% of internships are undertaken at ‘large’ agencies (those with more than 51 members of staff)
  • 30% said their longest internship had lasted longer than six months and 46% indicated they’d spent over six months interning in total
  • 24% of interns surveyed were non-white, compared to 9% of the current public relations workforce (according to CIPR diversity monitoring data)
  • 62% of internships undertaken are in the charity/voluntary, fashion/beauty and arts/culture sectors (estimated to be only 15% of the industry in recent CIPR research)
Alastair McCapra, CIPR Chief Executive
According to our research, internships are not meeting the expectations of interns or serving good employers particularly well. Internships should offer a route to gain practical experience and provide equal opportunities for new entrants of all backgrounds. Unfortunately, those employers who are choosing to not pay a fair living wage to interns appear to be missing a significant opportunity to introduce Public Relations to a new generation of professionals drawn from a far wider range of backgrounds than the current Public Relations workforce. Efforts to tackle this issue need to be directed at those employers where unpaid internships and internships lasting longer than a reasonable length of time are most prevalent. Good work has already been done, but the vast majority of internships are not provided by larger employers in the sector. Our code of conduct requires members to deal fairly and honestly in business with employees and fellow professionals. This includes interns and means that they should follow the advice in our ‘Internship and Work Placement Toolkit’, ideally paying interns a living wage. The CIPR will continue to investigate internships with the aim of developing a new approach that is fairer and more effective at tackling diversity in the workforce.
Alastair McCapra, CIPR Chief Executive
The CIPR survey is another wake-up call on this issue. We wholeheartedly support paying interns a living wage and that is the basis on which the Foundation was formed. Unpaid internships exclude those who cannot afford to work without a salary, which reduces the chance to increase diversity in the industry. Well-managed internships can and do provide great learning opportunities. Companies of all sizes who do it well are ahead of the curve in terms of developing talent.
Anne Groves, Taylor Bennett Foundation
Notes to editors

Notes to editors

About the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)Founded in 1948, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK and overseas. The CIPR is the largest membership organisation for PR practitioners outside of North America. By size of turnover and number of individually registered members, we are the leading representative body for the PR profession and industry in Europe.

The CIPR advances professionalism in public relations by making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register, setting standards through training, qualifications, awards and the production of best practice and skills guidance, facilitating Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and awarding Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status (Chart.PR).