by Lindsey Hubbart
Internships have become an integral part of the college experience. They offer students an excellent opportunity to enter the workforce while still in school, thus allowing them exposure to different careers.The reality is that most internships are unpaid. The most important aspect of an internship is experience.
Anya Kamenetz criticizes the unpaid internship model in a New York Times article titled “Take This Internship and Shove It.”
She claims that the opportunity cost of an unpaid internship is too great, because students must pay for cost of living and give up the wages they could make in a paid position. She also claims that “unpaid internships are not jobs, only simulations.”
Thus, they do not prepare students well enough for real jobs, she says. In a later interview with John Stossel of Fox Business Network, she claims that businesses need to follow minimum wage laws when hiring interns.
However, regardless of pay, internships greatly benefit the student. According to CNN, some of the major benefits include the chance to try out different careers, to network among future employers, bond with mentors and learn about the intricacies of daily life in the real world.
Further explaining the benefits of internships, Steve Cohen writes in the Wall Street Journal that “the most valuable purpose is exposure. Interns get to see the real work that real people do, and to see how disparate pieces come together to make an organization function.”
As students begin to think about careers of interest to them, this kind of exposure is incredibly valuable. Internships can also significantly enhance one’s resume.
According to Melissa Benca, director of career services at Marymount Manhattan College, “internships have become key in today’s economy.” Employers want to see that students have relevant work experience, so they will certainly check to see if the student has completed an internship.
Since internships have become so important, I believe that more businesses need to allow as many students as possible the opportunity to complete one.
If we require all employers to pay their interns, they will offer fewer internships because many companies, particularly smaller ones, cannot afford to pay additional wages. Fewer opportunities would be detrimental to students.
Additionally, an essential aspect of the free market economy is the ability for two people to enter a contract.
If an intern signs a contract to work for free, the government should not be allowed to prevent him or her from doing so. Interns are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves whether or not to take on an unpaid internship.
According to a study by Internships.com, “72 percent of students consider compensation to be the least important factor when considering an internship.” Thus, students will likely choose to apply for and take on unpaid internships.
If they feel exploited by working for free, then they have every right to turn down the internship and either find a paid one or a job. In the words of John Stossel, “Butt out, federal bullies. Grown-ups can take care of ourselves.”
Contact Lindsey Hubbart at email@example.com