INTERNSHIPS: A Position Statement for Record Keeping Professionals

Following discussion within the profession surrounding use of the terms‘intern’ and ‘internships’, in 2013 the Archives and Records Associationproduced an interim position statement on this topic.

Introduction

Following discussion within the profession surrounding use of the terms ‘intern’ and ‘internships’, in 2013 the Archives and Records Association produced an interim position statement on this topic. This position statement was revised and formalised by the ARA Board in November 2015.

Context

The ARA wishes to encourage all appropriate routes into archives, records management and conservation (henceforth referred to as the record keeping professions). Some organisations have created paid ‘trainee’ para-professional posts to support those wishing to gain experience prior to embarking on post-graduate professional training whilst some organisations offer volunteering opportunities that might be suitable to people seeking work experience in the record keeping sector. More recently a number of organisations have offered ‘internships’, some with elements of pay and expenses. There have been concerns expressed that some of these ‘internships’ might be considered exploitative; i.e. by seeking professional expertise without appropriate remuneration or by purporting to offer learning opportunities without sufficient professional support and/or mentoring. To address these concerns this statement has been produced. It should be considered in the context of three existing policies:

  • ARA’s Code of Conduct
  • ARA’s Equal Opportunities Policy which articulates the Association’s commitment to ‘encouraging equal access to education and training, employment and advancement within the profession.’
  • ARA’s Policy on Volunteering in Archives which recognises ‘the enormous contribution made by volunteers to supporting archive services’ but does not consider ‘that volunteers can or should be used to replace appropriately experienced professional or para-professional staff as the principal stewards of the United Kingdom and Ireland's unique documentary heritage.’

What are internships?

The term ‘intern’ can cause confusion as it can mean different things in different circumstances, and in different sectors. The government position on interns is that, depending on the circumstances they can be classed as workers, employees or volunteers. If classed as a worker an intern is entitled to National Minimum Wage and if classed as an employee s/he will be eligible for employment rights. Organisations should ensure they are clear of the status they are inferring on ‘interns’ and legal and contractual obligations that relate to this by following Government Guidelines.

In the record keeping sector ‘internships’ can be:

  • Work opportunities of short duration for those considering a career in one of the record keeping professions or as part of an introduction to working in the cultural or information sectors
  • A placement linked to a university course (other than one providing a specific record keeping qualification) where the host provides specific learning outcomes and the experience contributes to the intern’s final degree
  • An opportunity for a qualified professional to acquire additional experience in a specific area of record keeping to further his or her career

An internship may benefit the host organisation but should always provide a defined learning outcome for the intern. All internships should include learning for the intern, accompanied by appropriate professional supervision. Internships should not be exploitative but seek to provide successful outcomes for both the host organisation and the prospective intern. The ARA does not consider that interns can or should be used to replace appropriately experienced professional or para-professional staff as the principal stewards of the UK and Ireland’s unique documentary heritage.

What should the standards be for internships?

The ARA recommends that internships should:

  • Have defined tasks
  • Be properly supervised by a relevant qualified professional
  • Include a clear outline of tasks in the form of a role description, which includes a named line manager or supervisor
  • Offer a training and development plan to the intern, including defined learning outcomes
  • Have a clear outline of what is expected of the intern and a framework for management, supervision, appraisal and a code of conduct
  • Be time limited.
  • Provide documented outcomes that will contribute to the employability of the intern
  • It should not involve substitution for a full or part time paid position, whether professional or para-professional, and should always be supervised by a paid member of staff.

Should internships be paid and how long should they last?

The ARA expects that all intern positions should as a minimum include reasonable work-related expenses, except for placements linked to university courses.

To ensure mutual benefit to the host organisation and the intern, internships should be for a minimum of eight weeks. 

Where expenses only are offered, an internship should be limited to a maximum of three months. Paid internships should be for the maximum of twelve months.

A downloadable copy of this statement can be found here.

ARA Board, November 2015