The media may be too this or not enough that, but they surely don’t pay enough attention to an illegal practice as widespread as unfair internships. That’s why it’s a treat to see the Christian Science Monitor take an interest in the issue by publishing “Unpaid interns struggle to make ends meet” (by Tom A. Peter, March 5, 2007). The article is mainly focused on how unfair it is for those who can’t afford to work for free.
There are a few interesting quotes.
- “Internships are steadily becoming – if not already – an institutionalized part of the college experience and a requisite for entry-level work.” Maybe some day it will be widespread enough for a change to occur.
- “According to a survey conducted by [Vault] last year, 36 percent of students said they were not paid for their internships.” What if they put the bar at “less than minimum wage”?
- “If you want to break in at the entry level, you have to take a vow of poverty” Why is it expected from interns, but not from others?
- “I think there’s a tendency to say, ‘OK, kiddos, just suck it up!’ “
- About universities offering a stipend: “These [stipends] are a fantastic place to start,” says Neff. “But I think it needs to come from companies who have a responsibility to these young people.” Exactly! Why is it that these jobs have to be subsidized? How are we supposed to accept that companies exploit their workforce to increase their profits? Couldn’t they just pay them for their contribution?
And finally, my favourite:
- “Increasingly, companies are reevaluating the legality of maintaining unpaid interns. “More and more companies are not offering these [unpaid internships] because the boundary [between legal and illegal unpaid internships] is close,” says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an international outplacement firm.”
And if this is true:
- “Because internships are so important to many students, Neff believes that students would not speak out for fear of damaging future career options.”
… then I invite anybody with such an experience to share it here. It will be a start, a way to assess the scale of the issue and to feel a certain bond.