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[personal profile] firecat
via [livejournal.com profile] moominmuppet

"How Unpaid Internships Perpetuate Rampant Inequality in the US," by Anna Lekas Miller

Excerpt:
Recent graduates, disturbed by the dearth of job opportunities, began to take internships as a last resort to stay competitive in the labor market. Although an internship used to be akin to an apprenticeship—a temporary stint of unpaid, hands-on labor resulting in an eventual job offer—the explosion of both college students and recent graduates taking internships no longer guarantees a paid position. Instead, as more and more young people demonstrated they were willing to supply an unpaid labor force so long as it was framed as an “internship,” internships have become a means for companies and non-profit organizations to re-package once paying jobs and cut corners in a tight economy.

Internships are the new entry-level job—the same duties and basic experience, only this time without compensation or benefits.
Unpaid internships were common when I was in college in the early 1980s, but I refused to take one. I had an idea that it was important for me to work for a paycheck. Nevertheless, my parents and I paid for my first career job in three ways: (1) I got a bachelor's degree (my parents paid my tuition); (2) I went to the Denver Publishing Institute summer program (my parents paid my tuition); (3) I took an entry level publishing job that paid $10K a year to start, which didn't cover my expenses (and my expenses didn't include student loans). However, the job did have health benefits.

I see that the long and venerable tradition of paying for entry into a career path continues, although it sounds like it's somewhat worse than it used to be. Another excerpt:
It's becoming more and more expected for college students to have had at least one, if not several, internships by the time they graduate. Students that come from a privileged background, with parents who are willing and able to finance sometimes serial internships, are able to survive in internship culture financially unscathed. Eventually, they intern for long enough to make the connections necessary to break into the white-collar world. But students from lower- or even middle-income backgrounds feel financially stressed taking on unpaid work, but many do anyway to compete with their more privileged peers in the job market.

Date: 12 Oct 2011 06:40 am (UTC)
evilawyer: young black-tailed prairie dog at SF Zoo (Default)
From: [personal profile] evilawyer
Unpaid internships were around years back when I was in college, but it didn't seem like the "employers" viewed the interns in the same way they viewed "real" workers in that they weren't worked into the productivity and income forecast projections the way they are now. They were viewed more as students who were there to watch how things were done (and to do little support tasks that weren't particularly critical to organizational functioning. Interns in those days were helpful to have around, from the employers perspective, but they weren't going to be making money (or, in the case of non-profits, working as a full-fledged, pull-your-weight worker) for the company as interns. I've talked to a few recent-ish college grads who've held down internships while looking for jobs, and that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. They're looked at and factored into company strategy as though they were paid employees, or so it seems to me.

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