RIBA president Angela Brady has called on the entire profession to abandon both unpaid work experience and the word ‘intern’
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The outgoing institute chief said architects ‘must eradicate forever’ the controversial custom of asking students to work for free in order to guarantee the longevity of the profession.
In a blog post on the Brady Mallalieu website, the president said: ‘The word “Intern” has crept in, in recent years – it has no place in architecture - we ask that all practitioners’ abandon it.
‘This insidious process is killing the prospect of a more diverse profession as unpaid internships are impossible opportunities for all but the wealthy.
‘If architects cannot value students and graduates - how can they ever expect a fee paying client to value our skills with adequate financial remuneration.’
According to the Arts Council, any ‘intern’ which satisfies the conditions of ‘worker status’ but has not been paid the national minimum wage could be entitled to pursue a claim at an employment tribunal. Last year’s RIBA student earning survey found 14 per cent of pre-Part II students had worked unpaid.
Explaining how the institute could ban the trend, Brady said: ‘Our RIBA Code of Conduct states all chartered practices must comply with RIBA employment policy and that students requiring completion of PEDR’s must be paid at least the minimum wage.
‘Any architectural practice that abuses this will have their accreditation as a Chartered Practice revoked. I would like to extend this to all architects practices so that as a profession we will be the first to stamp out “intern” exploitation’
She added: ‘We need a mindset change to value and support our young students and graduates who bring a range of skills combined with a desire to learn in practice and who will now have rising student debts like never before. We all need to sign up to a professional, fair and robust way of working.’
Tony Fretton of Tony Fretton Architects – who is visiting professor at ETH Zurich – welcomed Brady’s ‘sentiment’ but said an internship ban answered ‘only half of the question’ of the challenges faced by student architects.
He said: ‘I don’t agree with hiring people without paying them but in the current climate we haven’t been able to take on a paid year out student in four years. The effect is year out students aren’t getting any education.’
Brady demands end for unpaid interns