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The Internship Scam

The word "internship" is popping up in my circle more and more frequently as of late. Usually as in, "My kid's looking for an internship for the summer...do you know anyone?"

The word "internship" is popping up in my circle more and more frequently as of late. Usually as in "My kid's looking for an internship for the summer...do you know anyone?" What is all this talk about internships?

To me, it seems like a giant scam being perpetrated by corporate America against our children. I see it as a way for these big companies to avoid paying our kids for their time and labor. Why pay a salary when you can simply change the name of the endeavor from a "job" to an "internship" and thus avoid compensating the individual?

Where are the child labor laws? Why isn't the minimum wage law kicking in? How can you require a high school senior or college kid home for the summer to work 40 hour weeks without paying them a dime? Not a dime, not even reimbursement for commuting expenses. Outrageous!!

It seems to me that by calling such work an "internship," the employer is able to get around every law that would otherwise safeguard American employees from being taken advantage of by their employers. No pay minimum, no restrictions on hours, not even a meaningful job description -- an intern can find him/herself picking up their employer's dry cleaning. Is this why we send them to school? Is this the goal of an expensive higher education?

And these so-called "internships" aren't just for the summer. Often, they turn into permanent positions that carry into the year and beyond graduation. The road to financial independence for our kids is NOT paved with internships.

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Clive April 29, 2012 at 05:02 AM
You think you would have liked it less if it was paid - I am sure you don't. The experience gained is integral - where the problem originates is in the paradym that associates internships with unpaid or lowpaid endevours. Internships ought to be as big as the word implies - no free boat rides paid for by the sweat and even tears of the minions on deck. Let's all change the paradym and do for all what we thought we were doing in the first place - helping the upcoming generation.
ninja April 30, 2012 at 06:31 PM
I completed my internship in the office of an elected official in Congress. While it was unpaid and I had to cover transportation expenses and the cost of the required internship course (which is the real joke here), it provided valuable work experience, networking opportunities and led to my current full-time position due to a professional relationship I developed during my tenure. In my particular case, the unpaid internship was indispensable. However, when my private sector company decided to implement an internship program last summer, I encouraged our CEO to make it a paid program, due to the nature and intensity of the work they would perform. Based on my experience, I would say that a true internship is not where one works, yet one where one learns. If youth are being asked to perform work that contributes to the company/organization's productivity and/or profit, then they should be adequately compensated for those efforts. However, if the internship is providing the worker with a valuable skill and learning experience, then I think you can place a value on that as well.
Stuck in the Middle May 01, 2012 at 04:36 AM
I worked in finance for quite a few years and we often used summer interns. I hired many myself, and here are some thoughts. Many companies do not benefit greatly from the direct work provided by interns. Most interns are untrained and do not have significant professional capabilities. The time spent training interns and bringing them up to speed is generally a wash with how much productivity that they provide. And since many interns are only with you for 8-12 weeks, the training that you invest in them walks out the door at the end of the summer. So, why then did we hire interns? Interns allowed us to deepen our relationships and extend our brand with universities and students, improving our ability to recruit at schools that we liked. Internships are extended interviews - we gave full time job offers to some but not all interns. Making the mistake of hiring the wrong person is costly in terms of organizational time and expenses, so even though internship programs are short term money losers for many companies, over the long term they can be a good strategy if managed properly. When I hire full time candidates right out of college, I look for people who have taken internships in my industry. To me, it shows a commitment to the industry and at the very least some exposure to the work environment.
John Fonseca May 01, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Well said.
Matt Rivoir May 01, 2012 at 03:43 PM
As a young adult not far removed from college, I can certainly relate to what you're talking about here. I did two internships during college, both completely unpaid, not even reimbursement for my commute. I even temporarily relocated for one of them during my last year at school. I agree that it is ridiculous that they don't compensate at all. Minimum wage should at least be provided. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as just "saying no" to internships these days though. Most undergraduate programs require at least one internship in order to earn your degree. When job-hunting after college (which is difficult enough these days as it is), even entry-level positions typically want to see some sort of internship on your resume. So unfortunately, in many cases there is no way around it for college students. Something needs to be done to require that interns be paid.

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