Internships are scary. Like Gremlins-under-my-bed scary. Take away the salary and you’re looking death in the face. Schools and businesses have told us that in order to get a job in the current economy, we must secure an internship. That causes students who are either graduating soon, or are looking ahead towards their impending doom to have night terrors in the form of Gremlins in suits. Would it relieve them, or stress them out more, to know that internships don’t necessarily lead to a job offer?
Over the last couple years, lawsuits have been brought up that question the soundness of unpaid internships, the type of internship most available to college graduates or soon-to-be graduates. Unpaid interns tend to be overlooked and exploited in the workforce and often don’t lead to job offers.
In a study of 2013 college graduates, a whopping 63% of unpaid interns were not offered a job.
That is remarkable. For the amount of weight we as a society give unpaid internships, for 63% of those interns to not be offered a job is something that is quite disturbing and needs to be observed.
Of those who had paid internships, 63.1% received a job, and made more money than those who were not paid. They made a median of $51,930 as a starting salary coming from a paid internship, whereas those who were given jobs after having an unpaid internship started with a median of $35,721.
This notion that college students should accept unpaid internships in the business circuit under the assumption that it will eventually lead to some paying job needs to be eradicated. The best thing these internships can do is boost resumes. That’s it. Maybe one can gain some experience in the field, but most of the time it’s darting around the office double-fisting coffees.
In this regard, companies and corporations are exploiting their interns.
Numerous cases of companies exploiting their interns have been brought to court, as having interns completing non-educational menial work without payment is illegal and serves as a prime example of work force abuse. The vast majority of these cases come from well-known companies that many college graduates dream of working for: Fox Searchlight Pictures, NBC Universal, and Hearst Corporation.
One such example of this exploitation comes from a student at NYU who hoped to work in animation during her internship, but instead was told to sanitize door handles every day to minimize the spread of swine flu.
There are other such stories along the same lines of the NYU student. A major lawsuit was brought up where two men who worked on the set of “Black Swan” complained of doing “menial work that should have been done by paid employees”.
These two examples bring up the question of whether or not these internships are good for graduates and students, not just because of the lack of future involved with them, but also based on how they are viewed by the company. If the company is going to exploit the unpaid intern because it is a cheaper and easier way for the company to make profit, then something needs to be done.
Although there are already laws in place for what categorizes an unpaid intern, companies are still managing to get around the issue. It’s not a question as to what law should we implement next, it’s more a question of how should we change this?
Drexel University believes that co-ops are the way to go about this change. The president of the school believes that businesses and universities should “acknowledge their mutual goals and work together to create new pathways of career training that benefit all parties”, according to an article by John A Fry.
This may alleviate some of the fears that have college students stressed out of their minds. As a co-op, students would earn, on average, $16,500 over six months. Though not all co-ops receive money from their employers, work is being done to rectify this and give these students a stipend.
These co-ops will be difficult for universities to accept as the academic area would need to change slightly to make connections with different companies and corporations. This would take time and a lot of expenses before coming together, but it is definitely an option for the future.
In the mean time, college students should get as much information from their future employer as possible, figuring out what exactly their tasks will be as an internship and if that internship could possibly turn into a job in the near future, laying this monster to rest.