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Internships - Are we meant to be taking from society or giving back?

Short unpaid internships are common these days and is viewed by many companies as a way to get free-labour to complete low-quality mundane tasks - filing, databasing, research, coffee runs, etc. Rarely is there structured work or development plans set up for the intern to tangibly gain something at the end of the term. In an optimistic view, the companies are providing the youth a line to put in their resume but no actual skill development. In a very critical view, this is companies exploiting the youth unemployment problem of our times. Internships are not about 'taking' from society, they're about giving back.

Photo of Kaye Han
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There are many reasons why there are very few quality internships available in the market, in my experience some reasons are:
  1. Quality internships require real work - companies don't want to take the risk of an intern doing anything that can have a negative impact, especially if clients are involved.
  2. Quality internships require a development plan and mentorship - this requires companies to dedicate time and resources to a temporary intern, which obviously is a low priority in busy competitive industries.
  3. The successful completion of an intern's program will not ultimately impact/improve a full-time employee's position or salary in the company - therefore there's no systems in place to motivate employees to assist interns. 
  4. Short-term interns are seen to very rarely produce work that adds value to the company - therefore they're used to help full-time employees produce value-adding work.
  5. The quality of interns themselves is inconsistent, therefore it's seen as more trouble than it's worth by companies. 

All of the above points are all true if we have the perspective that internships are about the company gaining something. But what if we shift our perspective on internships as something that's an expectation for companies to have in order to give back to society? 

Very similar to the way CSR works, the larger a company becomes the more society expects them to do good for the community and give back to society. Internships should be a part of this expectation rather than as another tool for companies to use to lower-costs. 

"our children are the world's future" can be appropriated as:

"our interns are the professional world's future"


Join the conversation:

Photo of Yaowen

Employers want free interns to help do the things which regular employees are not willing to do it. Interns want to learn professional experience, instead most of them learn nothing . For companies, I really hope them to provide actual internship for students. And for students, I hope them have a right attitude about internship. Internship is not a way to embellish resume, it is a opportunity to enhance intern's career experience.

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