Hudson said the guidelines would ‘make the whole system fairer’
New guidelines have been drawn up in a bid to stamp out exploitation of trainee journalists doing work experience in the magazine industry.
The initiative, from the Periodical Publishers Association in conjunction with the Periodicals Training Council, could transform the way in which magazines operate work experience.
It is believed to be the first industrywide document of its kind and will help define work placement roles for both publishers and wannabe journalists.
The document lays down guidelines for school pupils, students and job seekers looking to get into the industry. It includes recommendations for a formal interview, a written agreement to define the trainee’s role, clear objectives, access to on-the-job training and constructive feedback from publishers.
Lindsay Nicholson, editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping, said work experience was “a vital part of training” and one of the best ways for would-be journalists to gain an insight into magazines. “The new work experience guidelines developed by the PTC will safeguard employers and ensure that students gain maximum benefit from their work placements,” she said.
Radio Times offers an annual scholarship to postgraduates from Cardiff University, who then have their course fees paid for the year and get two weeks’ unpaid work experience at Easter and a six-month job placement in the TV listings department at the end of their course.
Radio Times editor Gill Hudson also welcomed the guidelines, saying they would make the whole system fairer and “discourage the widespread misuse of students who for too long have been led to feel that the only way into publishing is to work for long stints as unpaid editorial assistants”.
She added: “Work placements with proper training programmes will help students to prove what they can do and to show that they are willing to get involved.”
WHAT THE PPA’S WORK EXPERIENCE GUIDELINES RECOMMEND
Students should be placed with magazines that have a proven track record of good training.
Students should have a written programme agreed by their tutor, the publisher involved, the HR department and manager supervising the student.
Students should be encouraged to carry out some form of assignment or project to be submitted on return to college.
Editors should give students feedback on their attitude to work, eagerness to learn, attendance and interpersonal skills.
Editors must agree minimum wages, hours and expenses.
Where the student is doing work that would normally be done by a staffer, the company is legally obliged to pay the statutory minimum wage for that person, depending on their age.
Where a student does work experience for more than two weeks, Working Time regulations would be breached if they are not paid the statutory rate for the job. The Inland Revenue has said that students attending a full-time tertiary course who do work experience as part of the programme will be exempt from the minimum wage. But editors are urged to sign an agreed ‘work experience’ programme and make an ex gratia payment to the student towards travel and expenses. A minimum sum of £50 a week is recommended. If students have their work published, the PPA advises this should also be paid for separately.
The guidelines are optional but are expected to be adopted as industry-wide practice.
By Ruth Addicott