Work placements

Camera filmingWork placements, work experience, internships, traineeships, and apprenticeships - what's the difference?

We all know work placements are invaluable in terms of getting both a better understanding of the industry, and looking great on your CV.

But nowadays there's a variety of different placement schemes on offer. Below we try to unpick what each of the labels suggests in terms of your obligations and the obligations of the employer. (Attached to this page is a 2009 guide to Work Placements produced by Creative Skillset on behalf of the industry which may still be useful). 

What is work experience?

According to Creative Skillset: "Work experience is often undertaken by students as part of a further or higher education course to learn about the working environment of the creative industries. Students or others on work experience should be given the chance to try various tasks and develop skills...but they should not be relied upon to fulfill roles that are necessary for the organisation and would otherwise be undertaken by members of staff".

Typical terms: Unpaid if undertaken as part of a course and should not exceed 160 hours where undertaken full-time over a four week period; paid (at least to the level of the National Minimum Wage) where the individual is acting as a worker. Reasonable and pre-agreed expenses should apply in both cases. Written confirmation of the terms of the engagement should be provided.

So, in summary, work experience is :

  • Often as part of higher education 
  • You should be given a chance to try tasks and develop skills but not as a replacement for staff
  • Unpaid if part of your course
  • Shouldn't be over 160 hours if full-time over a four week period

What's an internship?

"Individuals undertaking an internship have a duty to perform meaningful and valuable work for the organisation. Internships are therefore the next level up from work experience placements.... Individuals have already gained significant knowledge in their chosen area and are being given the opportunity to apply the skills they have obtained in the working environment. The organisation equally gains from the internship in terms of business value....".

The guidance refers to two types of internship: Student Internships carried out as part of a course and General Internships open to a broader range of individuals.

Typical terms: The guidance recommends that whilst Student Internships can be unpaid, the value which an intern brings to the organisation should be recognised by at least a basic wage. Meanwhile given that a general intern performs as a worker the National Mininimum Wage and National Living Wage regulations apply. The guidance recommends that internships should last between 3 - 6 months with a maximum 40 hour week . Written confirmation of the terms of the engagement should be provided.

So, in summary, an internship is :

  • When you do meaningful work for an organisation
  • You already have some experience and knowledge so it benefits the organisation too
  • Student internships are generally unpaid, otherwise you should receive at least National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage (for those 25 years +)
  • 3-6 months, maximum 40 hours per week

What's a traineeship?

"Traineeships provide focused training in a specific (usually technical, production or managerial) role to an individual or individuals over a longer period of time, usually about 12 months full-time and can be organised by an individual employer or a training provider....Individuals should receive high quality training from an experienced member of staff and follow a structured personal development plan with regular appraisals.

Typical terms: A working week of up to 40 hours subject to a starting salary to fit the nature and location of the role. A contract of employment applies.

So, in summary, a traineeship is :

  • Focused, high quality training for specific roles with appraisals regularly
  • Usually around 12 months in length
  • 40 hours a week with an employment contract 

What's an apprenticeship?

"Apprenticeships offer a more formal, nationally recognised form of work-based training that involves the assessment of skills and knowledge and the achievement of accredited qualifications...The Frameworks contain a number of mandatory components including a competence-based element, a knowledge-based element, transferable or 'key' skills and employer rights and responsibilities. Learning takes place in the workplace and at a college or training provider, and can be assessed both on and off te job."

Typical terms: Apprentices must receive a wage for the duration of the apprenticeship and a contract of employment should be provided. Whilst 16-18 year olds are exempt from NMW regulations and apprentices over the age of 19 are not formally entitled to the NMW until year two "research shows that average apprentice wages across all sectors approximate to the age-related NMW and many employers increase wages as the apprentice develops skills". Apprenticeships can last 12-18 months.

So, in summary, an apprenticeship is :

  • A formal, nationally recognised qualification 
  • It has a number of compontents which you will be assessed on
  • You have to be paid during an apprenticeship
  • Lasting 12-18 months.

Our thanks go to Creative Skillset for the above definitions!