To employers looking to hire an eager college student or recent graduate, unpaid internships seem to be a great, cost-effective option that isn’t necessarily binding on them to hire the intern once their work is done.
However, the issue at hand seems to be that some internships do not offer any real benefits to these students, especially since many will face a job market saturated with college graduates vying for the same jobs.
Often an internship relevant to one’s college major is a major factor that can lead to employment in their desired field. On the flip side, graduating without an internship can lead to a very difficult post-graduate job search.
Big companies with bigger promises attract students with the possibilities of employment, and do not live up to their promises because of what little rights interns have in the workforce.
The recent scandal involving the interns at Fox Searchlight Pictures who were essentially performing employee duties on set of the movie “Black Swan” shows that interns may get the short end of the stick often. While full-time employees have specific professional expectations, interns are often just thankful they landed a relevant internship.
Unpaid interns at NBC Universal complained that they were doing the same work as employees, but receiving little to no compensation for the same amount of work. There is no “union” for interns, where they are protected from their employers taking advantage of them, and that is the problem.
The issue here lies in the definition of an employee versus an intern, and perhaps some legislation could clarify the differences between the two, thus clearing the air for potential interns so they are no longer taken advantage of.
Companies should be held liable, where a binding contract is made between the intern and the employer, that either they offer them pay, credit for classes or a guaranteed job at the company after the internship.
With exception to some majors, i.e. engineering or computer science, unpaid internships are often the norm. Many students see an unpaid internship as a better alternative to having no experience, especially in these times when landing a job without an internship is next to impossible.
As long as interns receive some form of compensation, whether that be college credit or a guarantee of a job upon completing the internship, then I am fine with the idea - it’s only fair.
Do not, however, let my opinion sway you from taking an internship if you are offered one; plenty of statistics out there show us that internships, paid or unpaid, do in fact help college students boost employment prospects.
According to internships.com, nearly seven out of 10 interns are hired by their employers.
Along with the modest gains in employment prospects, internships serve as a bridge between college and the real world. What kind of employer doesn’t want a college graduate with real world, on-the-job experience?
The benefits reaped from an internship also open other doors, such as finding out what you really want to do after college. Internships, unlike careers, allow for this exploration – and college is the time and place to explore who you are, and what you want to be.
It is rather unfortunate some companies would take advantage of that.