PRH UK to pay work experience participants in diversity drive

PRH UK to pay work experience participants in diversity drive

Penguin Random House UK (PRH UK) will now pay its work experience participants the National Living Wage in a bid to make the publishing industry more accessible and diverse. The initiative will make it the first publishing house in the UK to offer fully paid work experience placements, the company has claimed.

Every year, 450 work experience placements will be offered at PRH UK to give people a taste of what it's like to work for the trade publisher as part of a two-week structured learning programme. The new pledge means that all participants will now receive a salary of £262.50 per week. Previously they would have received only travel and food expenses.

PRH is also providing access to subsidised accommodation through a trial partnership with The Book Trade Charity to help make it easier for people based outside of London to apply. Eligibility for work experience extends to anyone aged 18 or over, on the condition that they have the right to work in the UK and haven’t previously been through the work experience programme in the past six months. Applications for the first wave of paid placements in June and July open today (18th April).

Unpaid internships and work experience placements have been a hot topic in the publishing industry for years, with numerous people calling for them to be abolished.

Internships at the publishing house are already fully paid. The difference between work experience and internships, as PRH defines it, is that the latter offers interns "the opportunity to immerse themselves in the company for a longer period of time and deliver a specific work project". As such, interns undergo an application and interview process, similar to applying for a job at the company. Work experience candidates, by contrast, are "randomly selected", without any pre-requisite skills or experience necessary, and are referred to as "students" in so much as they are there to learn rather than to work. 

As part of the "random selection" process, all personal referrals for work experience were banned last year when it "professionalised" the programme, which also intended to ensure selection was fairer and more transparent. As the result of the changes, PRH says its work experience applicant pool now reflects the ethnic diversity both of London and the UK, reaching and appealing to more young people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, while two thirds of its applicants have grown up outside of London or the South East. 

By paying work experience placements a salary, PRH believes it is investing in a more representative pipeline for future talent. Tom Weldon, c.e.o., PRH UK, said: “At Penguin Random House we want to be open to the very best talent, regardless of background. We also believe it is vitally important that the publishing industry reflects the society we live in today. 

“But we recognise that only covering expenses for work experience has been a barrier for many young people in the past.

“Through meaningful and paid work experience, we hope to open the door to the next generation of passionate and creative young people, helping them to establish their careers, and develop a skilled pipeline of future talent.”

The measure represents another attempt from PRH to level the playing field and to open up employment opportunities to a more diverse range of candidates, following the removal of the requirement for a university degree to apply for jobs at the company last year. The inclusive move, which saw PRH remove all references to academic qualifications from its adverts and the hiring process, was widely welcomed by the trade, with a host of other publishers, including HarperCollins, Bonnier Publishing, Oneworld and Alma Books, saying they too shared the policy.

The company also launched WriteNow in June to find, mentor and publish new authors from communities under-represented on bookshelves, launched in partnership with writer development charities Spread the Word (London), Writing West Midlands (Birmingham) and Commonword (Manchester). It released details of 12 chosen mentees last month.

Peter Cheese, c.e.o., Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said he hoped PRH's stance on paying work experience would also set an example others will follow. "It's great to see Penguin Random House promoting work experience in such a positive way, giving young people from a wide variety of backgrounds that critical opportunity to experience the workplace. In particular, they are to be commended for taking a lead on paying young people whilst they gain experience - an example we hope many others will follow," he said.

Penguin Random House UK’s work experience programme runs throughout the year, with opportunities across departments including editorial, marketing, publicity, sales and rights. Work experience students are provided with an induction, a “buddy” and a range of experiences to help them to understand what to expect from working in a publishing house.

Applications can be made for June and July intakes via the Penguin Random House Careers website.