RIGHT OF CENTRE: Impossible not to benefit by interns
Tue, June 19, 2012 - 12:00 AM
AS THE JOB MARKET continues to struggle and new university graduates are challenged to find employment related to their fields, unpaid internships are on the rise.
the surface, these employment arrangements benefit both employer and employee. The employer gets to preview potential new hires without having to pay them, and the employee gets invaluable training, experience for the résumé and, potentially, a foot in the door for a real job.
Economists and journalists, however, bring to light the dark side of these unpaid positions. Their concern is that it exploits young workers desperate to launch their careers. A more subtle impact is the effect the practice is having on the job market itself.
The benefits of an unpaid internship to a company are transparent. Although not legally sanctioned, it is practically impossible for an employer not to derive benefit from unpaid labour. An intern must actually perform some duties to be able to show that he or she is learning.
An intern programme can also act like a giant lobster tank from which an employer can view the selections in the work environment and ultimately choose the best people to keep on for paid employment. It improves the quality of new hires and lessens labour law disputes down the road.
An added benefit for employers is that interns who eventually work for the company will require less paid training.
Proponents of unpaid internship programmes also outline the benefits of the arrangement to new graduates. In order to work in many industries, it is almost standard now to work unpaid and “pay your dues” first.
More graduates are fighting over fewer jobs and carry higher education debt. An internship offers relevant experience that gives graduates a better chance of working in their preferred industries.
The increase in unpaid internship positions may be detrimental in those industries in which they are common. For interns, it may be a step up in the industry, allowing them to advance more quickly in their fields.
Overall, however, unpaid jobs may be crowding out paid positions, reducing the total number of entry-level jobs available in an industry. This creates a cycle of fewer jobs and more job seekers willing to work for free to open the door.
A recent survey by the United States National Association of Colleges and Employers may back up that concern. Of 20 000 university graduates surveyed, only 38 per cent of those who had participated in unpaid internships during university had received job offers by graduation.
One economic impact from the rise in unpaid internships isn’t in dispute.
In competitive industries where unpaid positions are common, interns, on average, come from a higher socio-economic class. The reason is simple: you have to be able to afford to work for free.
Students who have to pay their own living expenses usually cannot afford to do so and have to pass over unpaid internships for paid work, often not in their industry of choice.
The long-term impact on employers is that they will not have access to the best available talent on the market.
On the other hand, students who live at home rent-free or come from wealthy families can absorb living expenses while working for free.
Although it doesn’t appear that unpaid internships are going away any time soon, concerns about the exploitative nature of the practice will continue.
University graduates must weigh all of the pros and cons to determine whether an unpaid internship is right for them.
- Editor's Choice