Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Unpaid Internships

The latest entry point in the job market is the unpaid internship. Young people are told that an internship will help them get their feet in someone's door and on their way to a promising career. But Devon Black writes that the truth is far different than the pitch:

That rosy picture of unpaid internships is almost certainly wrong. The U.S.-based National Association of Colleges and Employers released the results of a three-year-long survey on internships, where students were asked if they’d received offers of paying jobs during the critical pre-graduation period of February to April.

While just over 63 per cent of paid interns were offered a paying job during that time, only 37 per cent of unpaid interns got the same offer. Thirty-five per cent of students who didn’t work an internship also got an offer — so why are we pretending unpaid internships are a stepping stone to paying jobs?

Worse, the same survey found that unpaid interns who did get job offers were offered less money than the students who had worked no internship at all. Work done for free is seen as less valuable, it seems.

Internships are not new. What is new is the notion that young people should not be paid -- or given something in exchange for -- their labour. I went to the University of North Carolina to become a teacher. Part of the training required me to spend a year in a high school in  Greensboro. I taught regular classes. And, for my labour, I was paid a stipend of $2,700 and paid in-state tuition -- which, at the time, was $37 a credit hour. It wasn't a princely sum. But, forty-five years ago, it was enough to live on.

My sister had the same arrangement when she trained as a nurse. The arrangement was pretty standard. She  trained in a hospital, which gave her room, board and tuition in exchange for her labour.

We used to believe that all work is valuable and requires some form of compensation. Now employers and right wing governments -- on a mission to drive down labour costs -- have peddled the idea that people should be grateful to work for nothing.

Where I live, farmers have a word for that stuff. They use it to fertilize their fields.


Lorne said...

Well-said, Owen. As the father of someone who had several unpaid internships, only one of which resulted in a suggestion that she apply for a position (which she was unable to avail herself of due to other commitments), I am well aware of the 'new slavery' favoured by the corporate racketeers and the governments who support them.

Unfortunately, the desperation of today's precariat means there will be a steady stream of exploited labour for the foreseeable future, unless governments begin to enforce existing legislation.

Owen Gray said...

The powers that be are hell bent on destroying unions, Lorne. But they are dedicated to creating a new class of indentured servants.

Anonymous said...

How can this be any surprise. Corporations are, bottomless pits of greed. Every time corporations line up at the trough and squeal for more money? Harper gives them another, $60 billion in tax reductions. Why do you think Harper is sneaking over, cheap foreign labor?

Harper is mulling Communist China for a massive resource project in our High Arctic. Harper is handing Canada to Communist China. Harper gave China, another oil company, Novus Energy. Harper signed a deal with, the Communist China Army. Harper is selling out, our Canadian farmland to Red China.

Harper's FIPA deal with Communist China means? China will be in Canada, for a minimum of 31 years.

All of this has been going on forever. However, people just refuse to listen and open their eyes.

We knew about, much of Harper's dastardly deeds long ago. Harper's give-a-way of Canada to Communist China, began way back in BC, during Gordon Campbell's reign of terror.

Read about China's blood diamonds and, the Red China Army.

We will eventually all be interns, when it comes to the monsters, Harper, corporations and Communist China.

The Mound of Sound said...

Unpaid internships certainly get young people prepared for what awaits them in the future. This is an integral element in the dismantling of the middle class.

It would make you think that the progressive parties, NDP and Liberal, would be on the warpath, calling for the reinstatement of trade unionism and collective bargaining.

Who am I kidding?

Owen Gray said...

All three of the major parties have drunk the Kool-Aide, Mound. Like Pavlov's dogs, they answer to the corporate bell.

Owen Gray said...

If we know what's going on, Anon, and refuse to do anything about it, then we deserve the fate which will befall us.

Anonymous said...

If you know a mentally handicapped person, then you likely know someone who either has worked, or is working at a job intended to prepare her or him for the demands of the workforce. "Internships, I suppose you could call them,like the employment you've been decrying. These jobs, however are never dignified with the term "internships".

These jobs pay a pittance(that is, if the handicapped person is lucky enough to find one which pays anything at all), and they are always short-term. There are no statistics showing what proportion of these workers go on to find steady, paid employment. Strange, isn't it? Nonetheless, the work is clearly dead-end employment which enables employers to get something for nothing - or for virtually nothing.

Unlike the non-jobs now meted out to the youth of today, the abuse of the handicapped is not a new phenomenon of our age, it's centuries old; and in that time, although the injustice of it has been well known, it has been ignored.


Do these people not deserve the same justice as the fully functional people you're concerned about? I, for one,would be pleased to know exactly what you think should be done about it other than complaining.

Owen Gray said...

All work should be paid work, Anon. It's a matter of human dignity. We live in an age which writes off vast numbers of human beings as simply unworthy.

All work -- provided it isn't criminal -- deserves respect.
And, as far as dismissing the disabled is concerned, we would do well to remember what Milton wrote in On His Blindness:

"They also serve who only stand and wait."