Sunday, April 18, 2010

College Intern Crackdown

The Obama administration and the Labor Department are thinking about cracking down on unpaid internships that many college students do during the summer.

College internships have been a long standing practice. Especially unpaid ones. The student gets valuable experience, and the employer gets free help. And that free, unpaid status is what is wrong.

According to the Labor Department, most of the unpaid college internships are illegal. But because of tradition, they have gotten away with it.

What makes the unpaid internships illegal? Because in order for an internship to qualify for unpaid status, it must be a complete educational experience, preferably college credit. Not just a free worker for a company. But that's what most are. Free, unpaid work that the company benefits from.

There has to be a benefit to the intern. Many internships end with no promise or even prospect of a job offer. Not a few internships are just busy work like making copies, running errands, or other things that could be done by a regular employee.

In other words, the intern is really working in the place of a regular employee, not in the spirit of what an internship should be.

Many college students have benefited, however, by being able to put these internships on their resume.

The Labor Department is considering forcing these companies to pay. But many small businesses cannot afford to pay and probably would just cancel their intern programs.

But should big companies be allowed to get free employees?

This would also make every student the same, or at least better the competition. Right now, only college students who can afford to work for free are doing these unpaid internships.

The law is already on the books. It's just a matter of whether to start enforcing it or not.

These rules do not apply to non-profit organizations and the federal government.

If you are a college student who was looking forward to doing an internship, you may have to look harder for one.

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