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Sport science internships – Nick Clegg won’t be pleased

I had a quick look at the jobs board on the UK Sport website today, it’s something I do every so often to see what’s out there. I’ve noticed over the past year or so that the number of internships for sport science and strength and conditioning roles seems to have increased. Maybe it’s just my perception and seeing a few come out at the same time has skewed that. Still, worthy of a blog I thought.

I’ve not been through an internship myself and so would not want to pass comment on the experience obtained throughout one, which I’m sure is incredibly valuable. It’s more regarding the structure of the internships. Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, brought up the subject of internships in the not too distant past suggesting that interns in Westminster should be paid for the work that they do. I think that’s a pretty good idea and one that all the professional teams would do well to emulate.

I know that the field is incredibly competitive and tough to break into and that showing commitment by giving away time with local, national and professional teams is par for the course. However I think that getting someone to work full time for a whole year, frankly, is taking the piss a bit. Organisations are taking advantage of a labour market that is massively skewed in their favour, namely lots of graduates desperate to make their way. The numbers are such that it is likely someone will be able to afford to undertake the position.

It also leads me to think about how an organisation views a free asset such as an intern and the structure of the internship. Again, idle speculation on my part but what value is an organisation going to place on the intern and the work they do if they are working for free? I guess it depends on the reasoning behind creating the internship in the first place. If the reason is to give something back to the field or to use it to nurture someone into the organisation, as is the case with internships in other fields, then maybe the intern is viewed as more valuable than if the reason for creating an intern role is for someone to work for free and take some of the load from the current staff. Having said that, if I had someone to take some of my workload from me free of charge I might find that valuable, but in a different way than if I was providing more of a learning experience to someone or preparing them to work with me.

Either way, I think that if you have enough work to create a single full time position within your organisation then it should be paid. It would also encourage more applicants and probably increase the caliber of applicants as you wouldn’t be restricting them to purely those that can afford to work full time unpaid for a year.  You then increase the likelihood that you have the best people working within your organisation and with your athletes.

Neil Welch

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