Thursday, September 11, 2014

All the world's a stage. Internship required.

In the movie Today's Special, Aasif Mandvi's character is all set to go to France and work with a leading chef as a stage.  I got what stage meant because, in explaining to his father, the character made sure that idiots like me would also understand that French word--unpaid apprenticeship.

Or, as we refer to it in the world that I am familiar with, internship.

If ever students approach me with questions career planning, I tell them that starting with the summer after their second year of college they need to gain career experiences via internships.

But then it is a rare student who ever talks with me about those issues.  After all, I am a faculty who dishes out practical feedback, often via questions such as "why do you want to go to graduate school?" or "sure, the part-time job as a bouncer is fun now, but what about the longer term?"  I don't tell them "of course, you can do whatever you want" but instead remind them about the costs and benefits of their choices.

For the vast numbers who are not at elite universities, and even for some of those at the prestigious schools, internships are integral to landing that first full-time job.
One reason is a far larger graduate labour pool. In 1970 one in ten Americans over 25 had a bachelor’s degree; now a third do. That means jobseekers need an edge.
Yes, you see how this ties in to one of my favorite rants about the overproduction of college graduates, which in turn makes the diploma itself worthless, and drives up the importance of internships?  Ah, the complicated webs we weave into which the gullible youth are trapped!

Colleges and universities are often eager to promote internship for academic credit, but for the wrong reasons:
Another motive for American colleges and universities is that 90% offer academic credit for work placements, sometimes during term time. A growing number make an internship a condition of graduating for at least some courses. And students usually continue to pay fees while doing them. “For universities it’s really cheap money,” says Gina Neff, a professor of communication at the University of Washington. “They are getting tuition dollars and not having to spend instructional dollars.”
It is one heck of a racket!

If the higher education business can try to make a quick buck or two capitalizing on the internship, you think businesses that are out to make a buck or two will let the opportunity slide?
Perhaps not coincidentally, the number of unpaid internships has grown just as hiring has become riskier, pricier and more complex. In recent years anti-discrimination and unfair-dismissal rules have been tightened, and minimum wages raised, in many rich countries. The growing cost of benefits such as pensions, health care and maternity leave makes employees more expensive. Interns have therefore become an appealing alternative.
Think about it: Who is then watching out for the youth?

Decades ago, before the college-for-all mania, except in the creative arts professions, internships were meaningful and they paid.  Even when I was in graduate school.  In the creative arts professions like in the entertainment or fashion industry, well, abuse was the typical payment interns received.

This being America, where there is always somebody waiting to monetize anything, yes, there are agencies that promise students that they will get internships--for a fee.  If the price is right, then you too can become an intern!
Internships can even be bought. Washington has several organisations which promise to get students an internship for a fee. The largest is the Washington Centre, which has placed nearly 50,000 interns since 1975. It charges $6,200 for procuring a ten-week summer position (and offers housing for an extra $4,350). It says it has placed clients at the Treasury, the State Department and the White House. Dream Careers says it has sold more than 13,000 internships in firms from Standard & Poor’s to Moschino. Fees for its eight-week internships, including housing, start at $8,000.
All the world's a stage!


Ramesh said...

I would gladly intern for free - back here, many do right through college. The experience is worth its weight in gold, it helps cement career choices, it gives a taste of work life, ........ I would actually gladly pay to intern !

Sriram Khé said...

When I was an intern, I got paid. It seems like it was a different world back then!

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