Across Australia, members of the PRIA RCG provide crucial intern places. Many chief executives of PR consultancies started their career with an internship. In a recent study of RCG leaders, over 95% provided internship places as a way of “giving back” to the profession.
PRIA RCGs have strong and enduring links with many tertiary institutions. They have fostered thousands of new practitioners through internship and work experience programs.
PRIA recommends strong practical, internship and work experience components within PR and Communication degrees. While official internship units are usually undertaken in the final year of study, early opportunities for work experience in the first and second year of a degree are also encouraged.
Under the Fair Work Australia (FWA) legal requirements, all interns must be undertaking a formal academic project in their university. If they are working within an organisation and are not undertaking a formal academic course, the student must be paid appropriately by their commercial business hosts.
RCG representatives worked with the PRIA National Education and Advisory Committee (NEAC) to develop this guide on internship structures and management. This document seeks to clarify best practice so that you can continue to provide internship places with the least burden and the highest effectiveness.
It also indicates some of the requirements of the Fair Work Act but is not legal advice. Please ensure you have discussed your obligations with your business lawyer as to how the Fair Work Act will apply to your circumstances and student employment or internship program.
PRIA RCGs also have free access to a Workplace Advice Line. The hotline gives a member of the RCG direct phone access to experienced workplace specialists who can answer questions on a range of issues, including internships.
Although formal internships are not a trial of prospective employees, 75% of consultancies said that interns often shone as potential full-time candidates and became permanent employees.
An internship is professionally monitored workplace activity and learning for students enrolled in a specific internship or placement subject. The student will most likely be asked by their academic institution to reflect actively on the learning experience and provide written reports to their academic internship coordinator.
Internships are intended to be a professional learning experience, allowing students the opportunity to apply the knowledge and understandings they are gaining during their academic study and to help the students develop as professionals in the field.
Internships will normally be undertaken in the later stages of a course of study when students are expected to have a more mature outlook and clearer career goals. At this stage their theoretical knowledge should be at a level where it can be applied more effectively in a practical sense.
While it is useful for an intern to undertake some more general administrative tasks it is essential that there are learning opportunities beyond general office work.
Short-term work ‘tasters’, work shadowing or short periods of workplace observation are not internships. If a student does not perform significant work for the organisation but simply observes a profession to learn about the practical aspects of a possible career, this is work experience.
Work experience is a valuable part of learning about the profession, and provides context for initial learning programs. It is mainly observing work practices, and not participating in the life and work of the communication team. Junior office work is not an internship. It is work, and it is common to find consultancy juniors who are working on a paid, casual basis within consultancies.