I’m going to put it out there right away: we regularly have interns at Think Out Loud. They bring enthusiasm, energy, and new ideas to our team. In return, as a non-profit, we teach them how to produce a daily radio show. From the feedback I have received so far, it is a great situation all around. Even in the couple short years we’ve been on the air we have launched, or at least helped, the careers of many spirited young journalists.
But there’s been a flurry of bad press about what interns have to do at many for-profit companies. And yet more stories about how some employers are getting people to “work for free” to help their bottom line during bad economic times.
In response, the U.S. Department of Labor is increasing enforcement of the criteria for internships at for-profit companies.
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
What’s your experience with internships? Have they helped your career? Were you paid or unpaid? And what difference does that make for you? Have you worked with interns? What difference did they make to your company?