AUB is leading a nationwide charge to increase the number of paid internships in the fashion industry in a bid to widen participation
Staff members from BA (Hons) Fashion have played an integral role in producing a new Best Practice Guide along with the British Fashion Council to improve conditions for student internships.
The process began with all of the UK universities who are members of the British Fashion Council meeting to discuss proposals to encourage the industry to reward students for their work.
Senior Lecturer Karen Ryan was then chosen to be part of a five-person working group that spent the last 18 months drafting the documentation and she said AUB wanted to be at the forefront of an initiative to help students.
Karen said: “We were really keen to be involved because we thought this process was really important not only for the course but also for AUB and all of the Senior Management here have been really supportive of this initiative.
“In the past, students may have expected they would do placements for nothing but that shouldn’t happen any more.
“If a student on an internship is working set hours and is doing set work then they are an employee who has employee’s rights and they should be getting paid.
“We don’t want any student to go on a placement and be out of pocket, but this is also about widening participation.
“If you have students from lower-income family groups, the whole process of doing an industry placement can be really alienating for them, especially if they know it’s not paid and it’s in London – there’s no way they can possibly afford it.
“But as a university we really support widening participation and the whole point of supporting this is to try to make it so everybody can do it – this can only happen if they are paid something for their work.”
The Best Practice Guide is not enforceable but it is hoped it will help encourage a sea-change in the attitude of the industry.
In line with its Positive Fashion initiative, the British Fashion Council says it is “committed to helping create an industry that drives forward best practice behaviours and supports an inclusive, diverse and sustainable fashion industry”.
The Best Practice Guide continues: “Our aim is to ensure our industry fosters inclusive environments within businesses where workers are paid at least the National Minimum Wage and staff are supported and protected in the workplace. Establishing this as a benchmark standard will ensure that designer businesses are fulfilling their moral responsibilities and are compliant with UK law and their tax obligations.
“As the issue of unpaid internships has been brought to light in the media, HMRC has made it clear that it will crack down on the fashion and beauty industries where historically interns have unfortunately not been dealt with in accordance with the law.
“This Best Practice Guide has been developed with the support and input of members of the BFC Colleges Council. This will form part of a suite of documents including a Student Placement Learning Agreement with universities and a Best Practice Guide for Students, which we will share with the industry in due course.”