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Code launched to ensure 'fair, open and high-quality' internships

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The CIPD and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) have launched the Government’s Common Best Practice Code for High-Quality Internships.

The Code has been developed by the BIS Collaborative Forum on Fair Access to the Professions, and draws heavily on the CIPD's internships guide, Internships that work: A guide for employers.

It is designed as a guideline for organisations seeking to ensure fair, open and high-quality internships as a means of improving social mobility and enabling organisations to access wider talent pools.

The event will also launch Professions for Good (P4G), a group of professional bodies representing over one million professionals worldwide from the human resources, legal, accountancy, property and engineering professions. The group aims to further understanding of the professions' contribution to the UK economy and society, and the importance of fair access to these professions to ensure the recruitment of top talent, regardless of background.

Launching the Code at the Chartered Accountants' Hall yesterday, Jackie Orme (pictured), CIPD chief executive, said: "Internships are a valuable resource for those looking to improve their employability before taking their first step on the career ladder, but they must be fully accessible and operated to a high standard if they are to be of maximum benefit. We recognised this in our own internships guide and are pleased to see the message so comprehensively reinforced in this Code, which the Government have built around our earlier guidance. We hope that it will be effective at encouraging employers to provide the kind of placements that are rewarding to both young people and organisations.

"As the 'gatekeepers of recruitment', members of the HR profession have a unique and vital role to play in ensuring that recruitment practices are open and transparent, and internships are well-managed. Done right, internships can provide a real kick-start to an individual's career and offer a great opportunity for employers to widen their horizons and find new talent."

Internocracy, the UK's biggest intern organisation, has welcomed both the launch of a common code of best practice for quality internships and the formation of Professions for Good, but laments the lack of practical action for interns.

CEO and co-founder of Internocracy, Becky Heath, said: "Since the Milburn report cited internships as a key factor in social mobility, we have seen the formation of various panels and groups, yet we have more unpaid interns today than we have ever had - and this trend will continue to grow as our young people become ever more desperate and ignored by politicians. Hundreds of thousands of interns are relying on David Willetts [minister of state for universities and science] to tackle the exploitation of labour that they face every day.

A voluntary code of practice just won't cut it - although it's a great PR exercise for the government. The formation of Professions for Good is, again, another step in the right direction. But unpaid internships are much more prevalent in sectors not represented in this group, such as politics, media and charity. These popular career choices have the highest incidences of intern exploitation - when will Willetts tackle the real issues affecting graduate jobseekers?"