I came across this excellent article on Paid vs Unpaid Internships and how large companies and start ups should and should not use internships. I will leave you to make up your own mind about it. Zak Slayback has written it better than I could, so I’d like to share it with you.
What I will add is this:
An employer has obligation to give meaningful work that will give the intern an opportunity to learn and grow and the intern should treat it as an opportunity to learn, grow, take responsibility and gain experience. What an employer teaches or an intern learns will shape their work habits and be an important shaping experience.
I have always taken internships as part of paying it forward, and if the candidate has the right attitude I will take the time to show them the ropes.
To paraphrase an old Chinese saying… if you tell me, I may remember, if you show me I will remember, if you involve me I will understand…
Now obviously unpaid internships only work for people who can afford it, ie it discriminates against poor families.
A person of out of school or college has a lot to learn, and often only real experience will give them the real world practice they need.
- Learn technical skills, (eg digital marketing, programming etc.)
- Social skills
- How to work with a team, how to communicate with your manager or customers and
- Self-management, how to handle a workload, etc.
In addition, the intern needs to build a track record, show some achievements and prove himself to be more employable/valuable.
It is important for the intern to remember that it is difficult for an employer to teach an intern these skills if he/she is only there for three or six months. (What’s their payoff?)
Interns make mistakes; take effort to manage and teach, but they can cause problems if left unmanaged or unsupervised.
Having been in both situations (large blue chip companies and start ups) and having had hundreds of interns work on projects, I can honestly say this is the best article I have read.
I would encourage you to read it no matter which side of the fence you sit on, employer or intern.
This way both parties can genuinely assess the value and benefits to themselves and each other.