Interns Out There: Now Is the Time!
The European Interns' Day will take place on 18th July at Place du Lux in Brussels.

5.7 million young people are unemployed in Europe! 4.5 million take an internship every year, out of which 59% are unpaid, 40% are without a contract and 30% are internships that do not provide any learning content, except coffee-making skills. This hinders youth employability and creates social inequality.

This figure has not improved since last year, when a group of young and determined people finally did something. They finally stood up and said: "enough!" That was the meaningfully named Sandwich Protest organised by a grassroots movement that attracted 300 protesters at a Brussels’ landmark demonstrating platform - Place du Luxembourg. Here we are again, in 2014, when some brave and strong-minded young people stand up together to say again: "enough!" Will it be heard this time? What else can be done to improve the structure of internships? What is Quality Internship Label? Who are the people behind these movements?

Read our exclusive interview with one of the founders of InternsGoPro , the organizer of the Sandwich Protest and the upcoming European Interns’ Day (EID)

Tired eyes, but a vivid look welcomed me for the interview with Pierre-Julien Bosser, one of the creators of InternsGoPro. 

"Yes, this is my full-time job at the moment. I get no salary but I work more than 40 hours’ says somewhat proudly." Pierre-Julien Bosser, is a 29 year old Belgian citizen, who having finished his studies in Philosophy and European studies entered the seemingly endless Brusselian job market hub and so far fulfilled four rounds of internships; some of good quality and some less so. But such as so many youth, he had no choice. Until, he made a choice. Along with Régis Pradal (27) and Nicholas Wenzel (28), Pierre made a choice to ‘change the mind-set of people’ and identified missing links between young people and employers. Though their initial idea was to create a specialized NGO that would focus on the augmentation of transparency following the great echo of the Sandwich Protest they set the aims higher and wider.

‘Last year was rather a spontaneous event, a kind of experimental gathering to raise awareness, but this year we are more structured and more clear in our objectives. Therefore, the scale of the event evidently expanded. We have more and better connections with youth organizations, which all come together to take action as one voice enhancing a snowball effect and generate more impact jointly. This year, besides the protesting interns, there are actual stakeholders. One week before this year’s European Interns’ Day (18th July), the organisers are working with an intense pace. Although they are confident, since they work together with such organizations as the European Youth, ForumBINGOJCITHOEProject668 , European AlternativesThe European Parliament Stagiaires Association and GIA  and numerous enthusiastic volunteers, a positive anxiety is always around.

‘We wanted to bring the Sandwich Protest to a higher level. I am not saying to institutionalise it but make it bigger, make it not only an EU Institution-focused, Brussels-based event but to spread the vision around the major European cities as well and to repeat this event each year. Evidently, until we need to’ says Pierre tellingly. As a result, this year they expect, among others, Geneva, Vienne and Paris to join the event that once again will take place at Place du Luxembourg. 

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For the question on how and whether they can reach their main target groups, Pierre explained in detail how the different grassroots organizations, small and big establishments and the volunteers collaborate with each other. ‘And Social media is also a great tool. Efficient, targetable and cost effective’ Grassroot setups and volunteers are essential in the organization of the event. They provide the first layer of activists, which are then backed up by the established organizations. Due to team’s persistency, by today, one outstanding MEP, Jutta Steinruck openly stands beside the event and a reply from the Andor Cabinet is still on the waiting list during at the time of the publishing of this interview.
‘Many endorse the event but actual support is much less’, says Pierre while jotting down a new thought. One of the most interesting moments was to hear Pierre talking about their connection with the interns themselves - the young people, which are unescapably the main actors of the project. 

‘InternsGoPro spent the last year with a European roadshow, where we talked with interns, students, universities, and youth organizations. We organized different workshops and roundtable talks. So we really did map the different situations, from the challenges of a high school student, to interns from the EU Institutions to interns at SMEs, from paid and unpaid interns, to veteran interns to people, who were lucky enough to settle before the financial crisis. We obtained a thorough view on the internship market.’ But the coin always has two sides and Pierre affirmed it very quickly: ’...But we also get to know that, for instance, in Portugal, where there is no particular internship culture, an SME seeking for a candidate with knowledge of Hungarian would not know where to look. It would not find the pool, therefore, it could not attract the talent that it needs.’ This, certainly hidden sub-feature of the internship maze, triggered further questions: What are the long-term aims and vision of InternsGoPro?

‘Our ultimate mission is certainly to help young people to integrate better in the labour market and make the transition between school and the first job smoother. In addition, our aim is to create a social enterprise. Which is rather a new concept in this form. But we trust and hope that working on a social problem can give us a living such as much as working in the business sector would. Our objective is to become a social actor for social innovation.’

Besides touring around Europe from their personal savings, organizing the upcoming European Interns’ Day, InternsGoPro was also working on something more far-reaching. Behind the scenes, they worked out the concept of a European Label for Quality Internships that would ensure and enhance a better transparency of organizations, which uphold a minimal standard of providing quality internships. This label would come with a platform that would benefit both parties. Organizations would be labelled in this way - as so many other services or products under the standardization and labelization process and they could attract their desired talents. While, on the other hand, young people would have the chance to see if the organization they apply for would provide them with the required terms. It would be a platform, where quality meets quality.

‘The label would be a tool used as a market incentive; since advocacy alone is not sufficient. It would create a pool of early adopters, which can make a change; and after this there would be better leverage to act on a higher level as well. The quality label needs to be legitimized. That is why, during our European tours named as European Tour to Crowdsource the European Label for Quality Internships, we tried to learn from other country’s best practices, and views, and share information on a national level; but now we need to elevate all this to a common EU level.’

Listening to Pierre, it was easy to see that the European Interns’ Day is just another milestone in the life of InternsGoPro and they have many more significant projects in the pipeline. Following the big Day, their focus will shift to launch the quality platform, make the label alive, organize further European road shows, and after all, to get some funding. And at this point, the interview arrived to a delicate turning point: Who finances these ambitious projects?

The answer is simple: they do. They use their own savings and the help of other young people from project to project. ‘Everybody gives a little to the basket. Some offers to print us fliers, or post an advertisement for free, others do what they can. It is a great adventure and we are positive but it does slow things down a little’. That is why they are excited to receive the results of their Erasmus+ tender, which, upon receipt, would definitely boost activities. Though youth unemployment, by itself, stands as a huge challenge Europe-wide, unfair internships continue to give an extra burden to this already terrifying equation; and let’s recall again: 

‘Among the 4.5 million interns per year in Europe, 59% are unpaid, [...] This hinders youth employability and creates social inequality. The EID wants to change this situation’ stands in the official communication of InternsGoPro.'

No need to elaborate further; the numbers are self-explanatory and the situation is worrisome. But with such initiatives and a contingent joint collaboration of all stakeholders, things can change, the market can shift towards a fairer set up and mind-sets can change towards a fairer allocation of skills and needs. And though, little news comes out with a positive resonance, it is not a secret to reveal that – due to the loud outbursts and actions taken by InternsGoPro and many other outstanding establishments - there are organizations, which already made a change, which already shifted their set up and changed their mind-sets. 

‘There are great companies out there with great and quality internships. Let’s make that the example to follow; after all, if they could, then fundamental change in the structure and legislation can and should happen!’- finalises Pierre his thoughts. 

European Interns’ Day 2014

When: Friday, July 18 12:30pm - 6:30pm
Where: Place du Luxembourg, 1050 Ixelles, Brussels
For whom: Interns, students, young professionals, employers recruiting interns or offering entry-level jobs

If you wish to participate or know more about the European Interns’ Day (EID) click here!