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National Apprenticeship Service's 'competition' exploits those it aims to help

Neil Bennett | May 6, 2013
The NAS the latest organisation that believes it can get creatives to work for free by disguising an extended pitch process as a competition.

The National Apprenticeship Service is the latest in a long line of organisations that believes it can get creatives to work for free by disguising an extended pitch process as a competition - but the NAS's scheme is worse than most because of who it's aimed at.

The Service has created a 'competition' for creatives aged 16-24 to design a Facebook app to 'raise awareness' of Apprenticeships. The winner - and there is only one - will get "up to £13,000" to develop the app, which will be released in August.

While the app may be noble in intent, the process is no better than going on the likes of 99designs: where commercial projects such as logo designs are offered up to anyone who wants to create them - but only the design picked by the client is paid for. Everyone else who submitted designs get nothing.

Those outside the creative industries often find it difficult to understand the problems with this unless it's pointed out to them that you wouldn't invite five plumbers round to fix a leaking pipe - or five accountants to do your books - and only pay the one who did the best job. In other professions, the idea that if you ask someone to do some work for you, you pay them, is inherent.

Is this really the message the NAS - which generally does a great job of helping young people by increasing the number and quality of apprenticeships around the UK - should be sending out to those it wants to help? That it's ok to be exploited by clients at the barest sight of a dangled carrot of possible reward.

The Service seems at least semi-aware of what it's doing. It says in a press release that "rather than following a traditional route of appointing a creative agency to develop the new app" - and pay a fair rate to everyone who works on creating the app - "the National Apprenticeship Service will tap into the talent and creativity of young people" i.e. exploit those who know no better.

'Competitions' like this demean the value of the creative industries - and if the NAS really wants to help young creatives here it should help teach them to respect themselves and the value of their skills by stopping this 'competition' straight away.


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