These days, it is not uncommon to find a student who is looking for an internship to try to put them at an advantage in the job market. Often times, one of the first things a student looks at when hunting for an internships is whether it is paid or not paid. Some may argue that compensation should not even be a factor when it comes to an internship for the sole fact of the matter that the experience and hands-on knowledge should be enough. However, there are many students who cannot afford to do an unpaid internship while juggling classes and often times other jobs. As a result, interns have started to stick up for themselves and no longer put up with the grunt work and menial tasks that dominate some internships.
Some employers see interns as, basically, extra hands in the office for which they do not have to pay. They are then getting more work done at absolutely no cost to them financially. That seems like a pretty good deal. Unfortunately, even though some unpaid internships can offer a fantastic experience and truly provide great training, it’s not a realistic option for students who need to be paid. I say they need to be paid because many students must have one, maybe two jobs, to put themselves through school. Giving up one or both of those paying jobs for an unpaid internship is not an option. Interestingly enough, an NBC contributor, Nona Willis Aronowitz, explains in this article that even though the common assumption may be that interns are only “privileged college kids,” the reality is that they are primarily middle and working class students trying to gain experience to put on their resumes. They aren’t necessarily able to afford an unpaid internship but understand that they need the internship to get a foot forward in the job market.
Students have a lot to balance as it is, not to mention students who literally cannot afford to do an unpaid internship are at a disadvantage. As a result, we are seeing more and more often interns finally raising their voices. The interns are exposing to the world how they are being used as free labor rather than training and gathering valuable experience. It is important to note that some businesses really do have their intern’s best interests in mind, unfortunately more than not lately do not. Ultimately, students must actually gain valuable experience through means in which do not overtly advantage the employer, as the Fair Labor Standards Act presents. It’s all written out right in the definition of internship. Dictionary.com states that an internship is “any official or formal program to provide practical experience for beginners in an occupation or profession.” Interns are there to learn and gain experience, not to do the grunt work that the employers would rather not do. It’s plain and simple, interns need to be compensated for their internship or at the bare minimum given college credit for internships that prove to provide training and valuable experience in that field.