Internships are regarded by many as a stepping stone to a student’s first post-collegiate career. In today’s job market, if one wants a lucrative first job, they are nearly essential. Many corporations cut internships out of their budgets during the recession, leaving little supply for a highly demanded experience.
Thankfully, most organizations are now healthy again and restoring internships. Unfortunately, not all of these positions pay what they did in the past. More and more internships are unpaid, leading to many corporations cutting costs with interns doing administrative duties, in lieu of paid employees, which is considered by many as simply unpaid labor.
Recently this has brought forth a lot of media attention. Many prior unpaid interns are now going to court suing the organizations for not being paid. I personally think these lawsuits are absurd.
Although I agree that most interns working 40 or more hours in a week should be compensated, I do not agree that accepting an unpaid position then demanding compensation in a lawsuit should be allowed. If suits like these continue, internships may simply be eliminated because of legal costs. Furthermore, if it becomes illegal to hire unpaid interns many corporations will financially have no choice but to cancel their programs.
Internships, in my own opinion, are extremely useful. I have held two paid internships; one at a large corporation, another at a local private sector government consulting firm.
These two internships have been the most valuable experiences, more so than any individual class, during my studies at Millersville University. Much of the networking, meetings, and decisions I have been a part of are nearly impossible to replicate in a classroom setting.
At my first internship, over the summer, I have effectively already been promised a position. This has given me the opportunity to enter into a career immediately upon graduation and this has taken a lot of weight off my shoulders. Although it may not have been the most lucrative position for the summer, I think that it was well worth my time.
Many believe this is where some unpaid internships are taking advantage of students. I will be the first to admit that this system is biased toward the wealthy. Most time-consuming, unpaid internships, in which students do not have time to work a paid position elsewhere, are occupied by those from wealthy families.
Unfortunately, a lot of these time-consuming unpaid internships are experiences that are the most valuable. Even the slowest of individuals acknowledges that the student is not being compensated even though they are creating value for the organization.
Unfortunately, the legal battle over unpaid internships, no matter the outcome, will have both negative and positive ramifications.
My opinion on the matter, that unpaid internships shouldn’t be outlawed, of course can take advantage of some, but I think it is best for individuals to decide. We must not forget that these unpaid internships, like any job, can be resigned at any time.
The negative stigma of comparing unpaid internships to unpaid labor is unfortunate. Although some internships are becoming more of a rite of passage in certain industries, we must not forget that many of us are paying tens of thousands of dollars, as well as forgoing four years of compensation, for an education.
Given the opportunity to make mistakes, learn organizational structure, and take place in day-to-day operations, was more educational than anything I have learned in class. Unfortunately, the negative stigma attached to low paying internships has scared many away, even though in my opinion, they are crucial to a student’s growth.