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Where are the opportunities for under 18s work experience?

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Where are the opportunities for under 18s to undertake work experience? I have spoken to many publishers and all have told me that they cannot take anyone under 18 for ‘health and safety reasons’. Those that do, have it arranged by a select school that they have an arrangement with.

This is a ridiculous situation. I started my publishing career at the age of 16. It was a real job where I got paid a salary – not an internship, training or apprenticeship –  35 years ago today. I started straight from school; I did not have a degree and my work experience was a Saturday job (remember them?) at W H Smith, where all I did was stack shelves and staff the checkout.

Whilst the world has advanced in many ways, has the industry gone backward?

We will never break the diversity barriers, and book publishing will never be open to all if we do not change this.

This is an email I received this week; I have received many similar emails already this year:-

My name is Tom and I am a 15 year old student looking for work experience for next year. I read your article from last year about the lack of opportunities and I have been shocked to find this too. I have contacted over 80 companies over the past couple of months and even though most of them have replied, none offer work experience to under 18 year olds.Honestly, it has disappointed me. I love books and talking about them (I run a review account which currently has around 1100 followers) but there is only so much I can do alone. I expected an open industry with opportunities open (even if I was rejected personally, knowing they were there for someone my age would be enough).I am writing to firstly ask if, following the call to arms of your article, you know of any publishers (or literary agents or anything) that accept under 18s for work experience.Secondly, I wanted to second that article that this is a real issue. My peers who want to be doctors or accountants or designers are finding work experience and can be more skilled and offer more to their industry because of it. It is a shame that the same isn’t happening in publishing.

Thanks,Tom

The last paragraph raises a most important point that the industry must grasp:

My peers who want to be doctors or accountants or designers are finding work experience and can be more skilled and offer more to their industry because of it. It is a shame that the same isn’t happening in publishing.

Why would those who have already had a variety of work experiences at school age, want to work in an industry which has already closed the doors?

So the challenge is raised to publishers, literary agents and those in the book industry. Who will start offering under 16 and under 18s work placements?

If any publisher would like to discuss this, and make a real change in the industry over diversity, then please contact me.

Hopefully we can find Tom and other under 16s a work experience placement and prove that publishing IS open to all.

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