Economic crisis, internships crisis

February 25, 2009

The economic crisis is becoming the angle for most of the news coverage and that about internships receives the same treatment. Even the student newspaper of the Harvard Kennedy School is worried. This blog will add a category to track its posting related to this topic.

The fact remains: unfair internships are illegal, crisis or not.

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Turning to internships during the economic crisis

February 23, 2009

Some more evidence that the practice of unfair internships may worsen under the current economic crisis.

Steinfeld said the media and brokerage firms are among those using unpaid interns sometimes with the promise of future jobs.”They always had paid internships,” said Steinfeld, referring to the brokerage firms. All of a sudden, in this economy, there are big-name firms saying ‘if you want into this business, you’ll have to work for free doing cold calling,'” he said.

The practice remains illegal nevertheless.

Even after graduation, some work as unpaid “interns” in situations that violate state labor laws. State Labor Department spokesman Leo Rosales said students may only work for free if they get school credit. After graduation, the minimum $7.15 hourly wage is required.


Worst Media Internship Ever

February 19, 2009

Gawker may well have found it on Craigslist. The question remains whether it’s an internship at Gawker.


Canada: Unfair Internships are illegal there too

February 15, 2009

The Globe and Mail, a national Canadian newspaper, has an article about unpaid internships with interesting comparisons with the United States.

While most internships in Canada have traditionally been paid, tightening budgets and hiring freezes may mean some stipends for internships may soon disappear, says Bill Weber, Toronto-based head of human resources for Drake International. It’s one step away from what is already happening in the United States, where competition for jobs is even more ferocious – so much so that some eager interns are actually forking over thousands of dollars to pay for the privilege of an internship position.

It illustrates well where the road to unfair internships leads: more unfair internships. No wonder it’s illegal.

The editor of the Toronto edition of Metro, a free newspaper (based in Sweden, of all places), tells the world that it is about to break the law.

Earlier this month, the company’s Toronto office laid off four unionized reporters and columnists, saying it will instead use paid freelancers and wire copy for content, and its unpaid interns for copy-editing functions.

A Canadian lawyer recommends to employers to sign a contract with the intern:

A clear statement that the intern is not an employee and will not receive any remuneration.

Details of the training the intern will receive, how long it will last and how it benefits the intern.

Explicitly state that the internship brings with it no possibility of an offer of employment.

What the level of supervision will be and who will provide it.

Whether the intern’s performance will be reviewed and how.

An ability for the employer to end the internship and how it would be done.

The message remains the same: interns are not free labor.


How can the financial crisis benefit internships?

February 8, 2009

If internships are done according to the law,”the employer provides the training and derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the student”. You would expect that during a recession, employers can’t afford to train interns while cutting off staff. Then how can it be that we ran into this quote in the Columbia Spectator:

“As there are fewer jobs to go around, there are more internships available”

Because unfair internships are un(der)paid jobs, not proper trainings, that’s why. And since students compete against each other to enter the job market, they are even more desperate these days and will lower their standards.

As jobs become more scarce, the importance of internships seems to have grown, as applicants feel a greater need to polish their resumes. “I see students who feel that one internship is not enough.”

And once everybody has their two internships, this will become “two is not enough” and then three. Where will it stop?

Unfair internships are a large-scale illegal practice hidden in plain sight.