Unpaid internships breed a lack of opportunity in the workforce

By Jared Sellick, Columnist
On March 20, 2019

Just about every day, college students seek out new experiences and job opportunities to further their knowledge and career.

Too often, students are met with opportunities that would better themselves but offer no monetary compensation.

Student loan debt reached $1.5 trillion in the U.S. in 2018 and 70 percent of college students work a part-time or full-time job while in school, according to a study from GeorgeTown University in 2015.

The burden of work in addition to their class schedule often makes it difficult to offer their labor for free.

What kind of workforce does a system with unpaid internships incentivize?

By not supplying paid internships to hardworking students, businesses and non-profit organizations are not only missing out on talented members of the workforce but they are also denying opportunity to those who are already economically disadvantaged.

It is clear that internships have a tangible economic value.

The benefit of having an internship in college increases a student ’s earning potential by about $2,000 once they enter the job market, according to a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

The same study found that students who received unpaid internships received over $3,000 less in their starting salary when compared to students who had received a paid internship.

Organizations that offer valuable experience need to consider whether their programs are accessible to the poor and middle class.

Students who have a difficult time paying the bills are often excluded from the process, leaving only students who have the financial backing to give their time for free.

This system is yet another way in which the upper class gets a step up above working people.

In a time where we are evaluating the disparity in terms of education between the rich and the poor, we should also examine the disparity found in prospective workplaces.

Business and non-profit organizations need to make it a priority to continue to offer both stipends and paid internships. There has been improvement, with the number of unpaid internships dropping to 43 percent of the total amount of internships in the the year 2017, according to the NACE.

Increasing the number of paid opportunities will help students of all economic backgrounds improve their future career prospects.

Offering valuable work experience in a fair and equitable way will give every student a step up in their future career and will lead to a more experienced and more content workforce.

 

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