Employers now a days are offering regular internship programs throughout the world within all the major business functions. These involve no technical terms of employment and are of no burden to payroll at all but employers are not violating wage and hour laws by using the intern as labor rather than providing them on the job training. Even though unpaid internships are an extension to classroom, government should intervene because unpaid internships are illegal in some states and unpaid internship is even worse than child labor, at least child laborers are paid for their hard labor.
Unpaid internships do not offer a pretty exciting kick start to career and there ain't that much to learn as well for the interns which is true for every second intern that is hired as is the view of Alex Try; co-founder of U.K website: Interns Anonymous. Interns are forced to make tea whole day or asked to bring in lunch for the employer or asked to print out forms every day as the part of their internship programs (Dehaas, J. 2011). However, employers see this from a different perspective and believe that internships are an extension to classroom teaching and the experience that student gain through practically working in an organization is priceless and upgrades their resume (Pinola, M. 2012). Generation entering in twenties is unable to become independent, still living in their parent’s house asking parents to pay for their expenses. The unpaid labor racket had even more worst effects leading to inequality and exacerbated class division as most of the people from less privileged background cannot afford unpaid internships in leading professions like mass media, financial sectors, entertainment etc. As much as the internship program may benefit the employers as well as the interns, it somewhat exploits the interns from financial perspective as they are not able to afford their expenses on their own and this is the main factor against this type of internship program (Loretto, P. nd).
The law has said for decades that unpaid internships are illegal with few exceptions, but it is been observed that employers are not keeping to the regulations. It was evident in the case of Xuedan Wang, the 28-year-old plaintiff working under a media corporation worked full time and sometimes over time for four months but was not paid (Perlin, R. 2012). Such cases have lead to lack of trust in the students or job hunters, and they even tend to ignore many opportunities to work and learn. Employers feel that internships are practical learning experience where an intern gets the opportunity to meet experienced people, make life long connections that can accelerate their career. These benefits are far more than money. Is it? Working as a regularly paid employ and getting business for the company and getting nothing in return will rather discourage the intern and therefore, they also deserve a reasonable compensation against the services they render for the company.
Normally employers argue that there is lot of job opportunities for an intern and he can be placed in the same company where he did his internship. As employers have invested lot of time, money and resources training an intern and they would happily give him some position in the company. However, reality is totally different. Many interns have been forced to do menial jobs in the company and later on were not given any job or were terminated without after a short period without giving any reason.
The labor department should take steps to implement laws strictly. It is essential to generate awareness and make interns aware of their rights and policies of the labor department such as, unpaid internships are legal only if both the parties are aware of the situation; the employer is not directly getting benefit from interns work and student is not a replacement of the regular employee. Now is the time to enforce the existing laws and repair the damage or at least prevent further damage. Institutions, Students, Government, not for profit institutions all should join hands and raise voice against such exploitation and discrimination. As an intern, students should be well educated about the rules and regulations of the labor department and ensure that they are being compensated reasonably for the efforts and services they are providing to the company.
Dehaas, J(February 9, 2011) “The backlash against unpaid internships” Retrieved from http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/
Pinola, M (May 15, 2012) "What employers look for in entry level job candidates" Retrieved from http://lifehacker.com/5910871/what-employers-look-for-in-entry-level-job-candidates
Loretto, P (n.d) "Is an internship really all that important" Retrieved from http://internships.about.com/od/internshiptip1/a/Is-An-Internship-Really-All-That-Important.htm
Perlin, R (February 4, 2012) “These are not your father’s internship” Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/