Written by Jasmin Romero
Internships are meant to be valuable opportunities to learn on the job, but they are inaccessible to most people.
According to a recent College Internship Study, 64% of students who wanted to obtain one could not. In most cases, students already had too much to juggle: a myriad of classes, lack of transportation, and looming financial burdens.
Due to the exclusive nature of most internships, many are losing out on valuable career experiences and life-changing opportunities.
Modern internships are a problem for the following reasons:
Low Compensation Nearly half of the internships offered today are unpaid and require school credit, and that's no coincidence. In 2018, The US Department of Labor revised its guidelines to help businesses clearly distinguish "employee" from "intern." The revision states that "employees" must earn at least a minimum wage, but "interns" are not entitled to wages during their internship period. Any promise of monetary compensation requires a title change. In exchange for labor, the guidelines specifically state interns must receive school credit.
Unequal Opportunity Individuals must have the necessary means to succeed and available opportunities in their field to take on an internship. Internships are available to students in their third or fourth year of college and recent graduates who have not spent more than 6-months out of school. While in school, students must pay for internship credits. At The University of Southern California, students must complete 60-75 hours of work over a 15-week semester per unit of credit to obtain their work opportunity. Each course unit can cost them around $2k. In simple terms, students end up paying up to $6k to work at an internship. The cost of tuition, transportation, and housing weighs heavily on many students as is. In 2018, 43% of undergraduate students across the nation had jobs to support financial costs. Being able to afford extra time and units for an internship is a luxury some don't have. Additionally, many students may also not be able to find an internship in their field. Research conducted by The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project found students in the Arts have far fewer paid internship opportunities than those in other fields. With high competition and many other restricting factors, students are losing out on real-life work experience.
Futile Work The old internship joke is that interns get stuck fetching coffee or securing their boss' dinner reservations. Yet, it's not far from the truth. A recent Vice article displayed a disappointing reality: interns are not presented with enough valuable experiences. The article mentions, "it's surprisingly common for companies to hire interns without fully thinking through whether the amount of intern-level work they have will truly keep someone busy or not." In the end, interns end up feeling unwanted and untrained.
Reinventing The Fine Print
The solution lies in the hands of business owners. The reality is, new programs and opportunities need to be created so that everyone can benefit. Internships have proven to be necessary for lower unemployment rates and higher wages after college. Currently, only those already privileged can benefit. Despite what The US Department of Labor has to say, companies can create sustainable internship programs and treat their interns well.
Companies like Buzzfeed have started to do things a little differently. Buzzfeed offers several paid fellowship opportunities to individuals looking to cultivate their writing and reporting skills. Starting at $18/hr, fellows can embark on a one-year program where they work and learn from current Buzzfeed employees. This program is offered several times a year in different departments of their company.
Additionally, Spotify offers multiple programs for individuals looking to expand their skills and knowledge. Currently, Spotify has seven different programs for students and aspiring workers. Each program is specific to an individual's career goals and ranges from 10 weeks to 2 years.
At Kingdom of Ink, we are in the process of finding an internship program that benefits everyone involved in the best way possible. Our program welcomes all individuals looking to develop their skills as freelancers. Our founders Kyle Cords and Amy Suto, work alongside our interns and help them cultivate their skills, build their portfolios, and learn more about the freelance business.
Changing the old internship structure is possible and welcomed. Students are craving new opportunities, and what's better than giving individuals a solid foundation to kick-start their careers?
Be sure to follow us on Instagram to stay in the loop when the Kingdom of Ink internship opens for applications.
Jasmin Romero is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles. She has used investigative skills obtained at USC to profile Olympians, award-winning chefs, and hard-working community members. Jasmin has written for multiple online publications, lifestyle blogs, and short films. She believes honesty and compassion are key in capturing compelling stories.