The newsroom at the Daily Echo provides work experience for many people throughout the year.
Most of them are young, looking for their first step on the career ladder, but some are older, looking for a career change.
The placements are usually for a week, sometimes two, are unpaid and are provided to help give experience to the youngsters. Little, if anything they create is used in the paper. That is not the purpose of their time with us.
Do I feel we are exploiting these people? Far from it.
Why then do we do it?
In part to seek talent – a few of those we have met along the way have returned to us years later as trainee journalists. In part to help local schools and colleges meet work placement criteria. But mostly because we all know we were once young and looking for that first taste of the working world to give us valuable, recognisable experience.
The furore over the government’s scheme to house tens of thousands of unemployed youngsters with companies while continuing to pay their benefits bewilders me.
True, the companies involved do not have to pay any salaries to their ‘interns.’ Equally true a lot of the work experience they offer is mundane and can be boring. But then again the real life work they are sampling can be just the same.
But why the government has found itself under attack for forging a mass work placement scheme with a number of large employers I can only put down to politics.
I have more sympathy with existing employees at those firms taking part who complain their overtime has been cut thanks to ‘cheap’ labour being on hand. Perhaps the answer would be for those gaining experience to stack shelves one day and then take the goods back down again the next, leaving, what I shall call, active work to those on the books.
I do recognise the type of young persons who have been paraded before the cameras on the BBC and Channel 4 to berate the scheme as demeaning. Of the hundreds of youngsters we have seen on work placements a few, a very few, have complained the newsroom was not exciting enough, the tasks they were sometimes asked to do dull and repetitive. A very few of the very few have walked out without having the courtesy of explaining why they wished to leave. But there will always be some who think they are too good for the rest of us.
We are not part of the government’s official scheme. We will continue to offer work placements to enthusiastic applicants. No doubt a few will not find us to their liking. But then again, that’s what the real world is all about.