The debate on college internships has raised contrasting views over the years. There are those proponents of college internships who believe that internships form the basis of a good career since they mould students and help them transition from class to the practical and professional world. However, some people argue that internships cause more harm than good to most students. Despite the rush for internships by many college students, it is important to note that internships are not necessarily the basis of success. College internships should be optional to students because students have different backgrounds and plans for their future.
Most internships that college students apply for are those that do not offer payments. Students have basic needs and they require a source of income apart from the support they get from their parents. If they take up unpaid internships, they are likely to find it difficult catering for their personal needs. Students can utilize the time they go on unpaid internships to find paid jobs. Young people must learn how to earn their own money while still young, and college years are the ideal time.
Internships are also a waste of time for most students who have taken study loans to repay them when they get jobs. Some courses and colleges require their students to undertake compulsory internships. This could amount to an extra semester I college or even a year in courses such as medicine. This time spent on unpaid internships inconveniences students who have loans to repay. For these students, they cannot seek paying jobs to help them settle the outstanding debt. Furthermore, students who have to undertake mandatory internships have to delay the time to graduate. This is an unrealistic policy because students can still acquire the necessary experience after graduating and finding the jobs they want.
There is a section of college students who pursue certain courses but end up getting employed in a totally different profession. If such students are required to undertake internships, it will be of little or no value. The value of an internship is to help the student gain valuable experience in the profession that they intend to specialize. Research studies show that about 30 percent of college students are not sure what profession they want to work. Therefore, internships are not always helpful to these students because whatever they learn as interns will be useless when they get employed.
Internships are also not an appropriate ground for preparing college students for professional jobs. According to Kamenetz, “unpaid internships are not jobs, only simulations. And fake jobs are not the best preparation for real jobs.”. Interns are overworked by the professional employees at the workplace. They spend most of their time carrying out errands that have no correlation to the job they intend to do in future. They spend time queuing, and working on routines. This is a bad experience, which can even give the student a negative mentality concerning the profession.
Internships are useless if they are imposed on students. Research shows that students perform best when something they do is according to their will. However, some colleges have a policy where internships are mandatory. Such internships may not be useful because students are forced to do something they are not ready to do. They will undertake the internship as a formality and gain very little from the experience. Therefore, it is important to ensure that college students go for internships only if they are willing to and their interest is confirmed. Only then will the attitude of the students be positive and their willingness to learn confirmed.
Another demerit of internships is they are detrimental on the economy and the labour market. Internships cause an oversupply of labour in the economy. This means the number of people willing to work in the economy for little or no pay is quite high. According to Kamenetz, “Moreover, a recent survey by Britain's National Union of Journalists found that an influx of unpaid graduates kept wages down and patched up the gaps left by job cuts.” This is a clear indication of how internships have distorted the labour market.
Internships also interfere with economic productivity due to information flow. Productivity depends in an economy is dependent on qualified individuals finding jobs that suit their talents, abilities and knowledge. Internships interfere with this culture. People who are talented or have the ability are dropped and their places taken by interns because employers want to reduce their wage bill. This reduces productivity in the economy hence; poor performance.
There is a friend who studied mass media communications in Maryland. She is an example of the students who have benefited from internships. She went on several internships in major media houses where she took up roles as an intern journalist for the New York Times, Huffing Post and the Washington Post and in radio presentation. Working in a team of experienced journalists and presenters, she gained valuable experience and learnt to cope in the demanding communications industry. The experience enabled her to grow into a young, focused and professional journalist with the Los Angeles Times.
The experience of some interns such as the example above is an indicator that internships can be beneficial and actually be a basis for one’s career. According to Halperin, “I think unpaid internships are almost always a valuable experience, especially for students in college. It really is up to the student to make the most of the internship. In most cases, I think employers are interested in pushing interns to the limits to see if they are valid candidates to be hired someday.” Internships provide students with the opportunity to put into practice what they learnt in class. It also gives them the chance to interact with experienced professionals and learn how to conduct themselves in the respective profession. The benefits of college internships can be long lasting because the experience gained is one of a life time. Furthermore, the internships are opportunities for college students to network with professionals and meet people with similar interests as themselves. Some people who started out as college interns ended up going back to the organizations they worked as interns or earned permanent jobs due to the networks they made as interns.
Despite the fact that internships have some positive impacts on the future of college students, it is imperative that college internships have more negative impacts than positive. Internships have made the labour market flooded, reduced wage rates and made the quality of production in the economy much lower. Compulsory college internships do not benefit students because most students undertake them as a formality rather than what they are meant to help them achieve. Internships also waste time since some students have to spend an extra semester as interns before graduation. This creates repayment problems for those who had acquired loans to pay fees. Furthermore, internships promote dependency as students continues relying on their parents for finances rather than earn theirs. Therefore, internships should be entirely optional because they add little value to the life and professionalism of college students.
Halperin, Jennifer. No pay? Many interns say, 'No problem'. 07 April 2010. 17 April 2013.
Kamenetz, Anya. Take This Internship and Shove It. 30 May 2006. 17 April 2013.