By Angie Burkhart |Staff Writer|
While internships provide a great opportunity for college students to make connections in the workforce, employers may sometimes take advantage of the free labor.
Ideally, the purpose of an internship is to give students real life experience that will help them in a future job; unfortunately, I do not believe this is always the case.
I recognize there are unpaid internships that allow students to gain valuable skills and references.
However, I also believe there are a great number of companies who are taking advantage of unpaid labor via college-age workers.
“An estimated 500,000 to 1 million interns are working for free or minimal pay, too often shadowing executives or running errands instead of learning skills,” stated Los Angeles Times author John A. Fry in his article Stop Exploiting Young Workers: Here’s an Alternative to Unpaid Internships That Work.
These numbers are striking to me, considering the potential output that interns can bring to a company that pays them close to, or literally, nothing.
“These unpaid interns receive no benefits, no legal protection against harassment or discrimination, and no job security.
They generate an enormous amount of value to their employers, and yet they are paid nothing,” stated The New York Times author Raphael Pope-Sussman in his article Unpaid Internships Should Be Illegal.
In my opinion, taking advantage of desperate college-age workers via unpaid labor when there is little to no academic benefit is unethical.
Though the Labor Department designed rules to protect against this type of exploitation, the Economic Policy Institute found that, after reviewing a guidebook of the top internships for college students, many businesses “offered unpaid internships with no explicit academic or training component.”
Aside from the exploitation, unpaid internships present an entirely different problem with regards to future job placement.
Individuals who do not have the means to take unpaid internships must compete with affluent individuals who can, and who do you think is more likely to land the job?
CSUSB student Malari Zarate is one of many students who cannot afford to take an unpaid internship.
“I have not pursued an internship just yet as I am currently working 40 hours a week while in school full-time. Many of them are unpaid, which would require me to make huge financial sacrifices,” stated Zarate.
Although there is evidence to support that unpaid internships can be exploitative and discriminating, many support the idea that an internship is great way for one to get their foot in the door.
CSUSB alumni and current sixth grade teacher, Laurie Coulter, completed an internship and recognizes the potential benefits.
“During my time in school it really helped me in understanding and applying concepts, and was overall a great experience,” said Coulter.
The solution to this sort of exploitation is not clear cut, but it needs to be addressed.
The Labor Department can start by better regulating the rules for unpaid internships, while colleges and universities can also set higher standards, giving credits only when there is a definite academic component involved.
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