Uncompensated exploitation: an intern’s plight

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Kaetlyn Dembkoski
Staff Writer


Dating back to about the 12th century in England, apprenticeships were meant to spread the immense knowledge of masters of certain tasks down to another man who was in search for a craft to specialize in. As times have progressed, apprenticeships have become less frequent; along with that notion, even in the amount of those that are remaining, the difficulties lie in being able to successfully get the position in the first place.

Unlike the dwindling numbers of apprenticeships, internships have risen greatly over the years in order to provide students with experience in their desired fields. However, while people approach apprenticeships with a set future in store for them, with goals of a potentially life-long career and advancement, modern internships are not as fortunate.

For students whose lives are filled with a full class schedule, a job or two, and mounds of homework that only Dead Poet’s Society could accurately portray, entertaining the idea of taking up an internship to begin training in their career of choice is a daunting one. This is made worse when they go without pay due to internship owners assuming that they are not working enough to receive an actual paycheck for their time.  In fact, unpaid internships fail to provide students with enough experiences or rewards in exchange for the work that is done, to the point where it becomes exploitative towards the student.

Time spent during an internship is meant to give the student experience in their field, but by not providing compensation for such time, students lose other opportunities for advancement and spend time in high-stress environments that yield little reward. In comparison apprenticeships are frequently associated with classroom training, thus making their time there purposeful. Internships branch out from the school setting, making it less likely that they receive pay during this time or academic guidance.

For a student, embarking on an internship is time specifically set aside to learn the ins-and-outs of what they can roughly expect to do once they get out of school. But no matter the benefits, these students are at a disadvantage should the employer not provide compensation. The students are filling actual jobs, meant to be held by hired employees. Not only will these students not be able to retain these positions, as they’ll be handed off to the next intern at a later date, but they also could, instead, spend their time in another job position gaining experience that they can use on a résumé while simultaneously getting paid for their work.

As these internships are giving the interns experience for the careers they eventually desire to pursue, they hold a flaw that makes working at one increasingly difficult. Interns are not allowed to keep the positions, unlike apprentices, who are guaranteed a job directly following their completion of said apprenticeship.

While internships can be viewed as beneficial for the students by means of experience in a particular field, to go without pay for periods of time while working diligently, only to imminently await their removal of the position, can be seen as an experience that only serves to stress the interns.

Since the time and future careers of interns are ultimately an extension of the impending issues, the main focus in the present is that of the monetary value of the intern’s work. As aforementioned, interns hold positions that hired employees would be taking; instead, some employers find it beneficial to their company to “hire” these students to fill spots that an employee would receive compensation for.

While the interns are less knowledgeable about the positions that they are taking, by no means does that equal less capable to the point where they should not receive pay for their work. This is especially true since internships are meant to be teaching students how a normal job of their standard would operate.

Researching into unpaid internships, one can find dozens upon dozens of informational documents on legal requirements, groups advocating for intern rights in this ordeal. As minimum wage issues and labor laws come into play for workers across America, these same laws are making room for interns to be included within the policies. This only furthers the issue with unpaid internships as laws tighten their reign over employers and the pay that they divide out.

While internships have their benefits, some are corrupt in their ways. The time spent could be placed elsewhere at a job that could give compensation while giving the student key résumé experience. To make matters more difficult, these positions are not kept by the interns and instead handed to the next intern, making the work done into a indistinct position that fails to stand out from the crowd. Finally, the monetary value of these interns should not be based on their knowledge of the work but instead their potential capability to complete the work.

Though these conditions are steadfast for some employers, the tides are slowly turning in favor of the interns. Labor and wage laws recently have included interns in the mix and made it much more difficult for employers to get away with not compensating their interns. As for the future of many workplaces, internships, as well as the interns who undertake them, are essential to the a company’s success. So what reason is there not to pay them? After all, regardless of where we are coming into this job from, in our most basic form, we are all workers. If one is given compensation, then that right should be granted to each and every employee.

Categories: Opinions, Uncategorized

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