Are you a Fair Company?

October 14, 2006

Laudable in the German context is the “Fair Company” initiative launched by the German Karriere (career) magazine. There now are 390 companies, including giants like E.on, Bayer, or Deutsche Post, that have signed up to the initiative by agreeing to the following principles:

  • They will not substitute internships for full-time positions.
  • They will not provide an internship in lieu of a full-time job to someone who applied for a full-time position.
  • They will not seek to attract interns by making vague promises about a subsequent full-time position.
  • They will provide internships primarily to assist professional orientation while a potential intern is undergoing a form of education.
  • They will pay inters an adequate allowance

If that isn’t a good start, then I don’t know what is. Now the challenge will be monitor behavior, which Karriere is hoping to achieve by asking interns to report compliance to the editors.

Hopefully, the initiative will be replicated in other countries.


Internships for the masses?

October 13, 2006

In Germany, there also is a debate about whether this truly is a mass phenomenon, and whether the trend of the “permanent intern life” is new or whether interns have simply attributed themselves a catchy name. A study based on 89 companies carried out by the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB) shows that 56% of graduates are part of the “intern generation”. Other studies, such as one by the Tertiary Education Information System (HIS) don’t support this thesis, however. This investigation found that in 2004, 16% of business administration graduates, some 25% of social scientists, but fewer graduates from the humanities and very few from computer science or the natural sciences started their careers with internships.

Germany is coming to its senses

October 11, 2006

German Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Labor Franz Müntefering has a heart for young graduates. In a parliamentary session in early September, he demanded that young academics be appropriately remunerated for their work. “I see with great concern that an way of using internships is taking hold that cannot be accepted.” If companies use interns to conduct full-time work but don’t pay them appropriately, that was not okay, said the Social Democrat. “Young people coming out of university must not be abused”, he added, and called for a law to force companies to treat interns fairly, including provisions for a four-month time limit to internships as well as interns’ rights. The ministry of labor is currently investigating how internships could be regulated.

Needless to say, employers were not amused, countering, with some justification, that the German labor market is already over-regulated, and questioning whether the number of interns had really increased.

In Germany, the debate about the abuse of interns has been raging with varying intensity for two years. The common complaint is that interns apply themselves fully in a new company, only to then have to start all over again in a different outfit.

More on this situation in the coming days.

German example

October 9, 2006

It has the quality of being blunt: “We are not only looking for new employees, we are looking for committed and young-minded people, who want to take the chance working for a global company.” Once again, the “chance” to work for free.

Looking at the job posting, it’s quite clear that they are looking for a new employee, not someone that they want to coach at the expense of their own productivity:

• Support of the recruitment process and contract management
• Participation in HR projects and taking over own projects
• All HR database related data management and management of the time-tracking-system

Their attempt to hide it is miserable. From the “Your profile” section: “First working experience in Human Resources in an international environment.” So, since it’s a first in this particular context, you have too much to learn to be paid? What about: “First working experience on the 7th floor of a building oriented northwest”? If the employee is expected to do all of the above, it’s not an internship.

But I’d be surprised if they get all they ask for. One of the requirements is “Very good knowledge of the German employment law”.

Is it worth being a good intern?

October 8, 2006

It’s almost funny to hear people who get free interns complain that they don’t get half their money’s worth.

Promotions producer Rick deMasi also had an unpleasant experience with an intern. “Don’t refuse a job,” deMasi said. “Be prepared to clean out closets because everyone starts out low. My last intern refused the job and said, ‘I’d rather not.’”

What did he expect in return for nothing? This would sure be unwise from an employee, but an exploited intern has every right to draw a line where his exploitation stops (it should be at the front door).

(by way of Angry Intern)

Interns can not be paid lobbyists

October 7, 2006

How do you call an employee paid by a private company to work for free for a lawmaker? An intern!

That’s how ridiculous it got in Hawaii. The state Ethics Commission got involved and said what everybody knew: “Interns can not be paid lobbyists.” Duh.