Why Unpaid Internship Is Bad For The Student And The Employer


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Internships are a great way for students to have a feel of what their chosen career path is like. It is also a great way for the hiring company to see who would be of value to the organization.  However, Internships comes in two forms: paid and unpaid. In this article, we dissect the issue of unpaid Internships and why they should be discouraged if not abolished altogether. 

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What is internship?

An internship is a professional  learning experience when a student or recent graduate is hired to work in an organization while also learning the job.  The reason for internship is that the student needs practical exposure to the real-life demands of their chosen career path. Another reason for internship is that in some fields such as medicine and Chartered Accountancy, internships are mandatory parts of getting the full final qualification. 

Generally, Internships are short-term contracts, lasting from a few months to even 24 months. The learner may take an internship while still in college, or soon after graduation. The internship may or may not lead to the learner being offered full employment at the end of the programme.  However, to encourage maximum performance and productivity by the intern, most organizations promise to recruit the intern on a permanent basis if they perform well.

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Is unpaid internship legal?

In most parta of the world, including the United States, the laws governing the operation of Internships are relaxed and leave interna at the mercy of the employer. In the US, for example, unpaid internship is still normal and the White House only announced it would stop unpaid Internships early in 2022.  In January 2022, the US Department of Labour released new guidelines which clarified the requirements that an unpaid internship must satisfy for it to be legal.

The main requirement is that the unpaid intern must complement rather than displace or replace a paid employee. In other words, the intern should not take the full role a paid employee would take. While this is a step in the right direction, it is still falling short insofar as regulation of internships is concerned. There are many organisations that hire interns to take the roles a paid employee would take, with the result that interns are overwhelmed and hardly have time to learn during the internship. 

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Why an unpaid internship is bad for the student

University and college education is costly nowadays, and most students graduate with a pile of college debt hanging over their shoulder.  As such, the graduate will be desperate to land a job so they can start earning and extinguish their debt. It is unethical for employers to hire such already overburdened students as free labour, only to release them back into the unemployment market after the end of the internship.  Besides the desperation on the part of the student, the competition for entry-level jobs has now gone global and is very stiff. Gone are the days when a vacancy in London would only be a contest among London based applicants.

In the days of the internet and global village phenomena, students across the whole world are generally fighting to land the few jobs being offered by top companies. It therefore looks entirely wrong for employers to take advantage of the stiff competition to then offer unpaid internships.

Being desperate to enter the job market and hopeful to land a permanent position later, some students take the unpaid internship as an escape from unemployment. The idea would be to impress the hiring company and get a permanent job offer later on. The hope is also that in the course of the unpaid internship, the intern would gain access to HR bosses in the organisations and build their networks for future job search.

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Why an unpaid internship is bad for the company

Also, unscrupulous business people the world over see unpaid internship as a pool for free labour and high profit.  Another downside of Internships in unethical organisations is that the interns end up being given work that has nothing to do with what the student’s degree or diploma program entails. 

The intern is reminded that their internship must be solely focused on education, training and experience in their chosen career.  Anything else would be blatant abuse of what should be a great system to prepare students for the real world of work. 

For the employer, reliance on unpaid interns also damages the company’s reputation in the long run. For a company that cares about its brand and corporate image, Internships should ideally be on paid basis at the very least.

In summing up, the use of unpaid Internships as free labour and profit chasing reeks of abuse and slavery, and must be abolished at all costs.

Also Read: Teach In England If You Qualified Outside The UK 2023

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