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Internships illegal according to the NY Times?

New York Times Article: “The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not”

Lately, the legality of unpaid internships is being discussed in the news.It’s common knowledge that employers expect students to have completed more than one internship before graduation. The National Association of Colleges and Employers survey found that 50 percent of graduating students had participated in internships.Yet, state and federal government are now looking at certain legal criteria that must be satisfied for internships to be unpaid.

The bottom line is, “Is the internship educational?” When I talk to a potential internship mentor, the first question I ask is “What type of projects and activities would our student be involved with?” The experiences must be meaningful and educational or I would never place a student there. Both the student and mentor should benefit equally.The article mentions Trudy Steinfeld, director of N.Y.U.’s Office of Career Services, who said she increasingly had to ride herd on employers to make sure their unpaid internships were educational.

The interns in our program would never experience what this article describes:

“One Ivy League student said she spent an unpaid three-month internship at a magazine packaging and shipping 20 or 40 apparel samples a day back to fashion houses that had provided them for photo shoots. In a second case, a N.Y.U. student who hoped to work in animation at a Manhattan children’s film company was assigned to the facilities department and ordered to wipe the door handles each day to minimize the spread of swine flu. If that happened in our program, I would pull the intern out immediately and arrange for a different placement!

Personally, I have seen so many benefits for our students. A high school internship leads to a more prestigious one in college which leads to a meaningful job after graduation.Internships — paid or unpaid — serve as valuable steppingstones that help young people land future jobs. “Internships have become the gateway into the white-collar work force,” said Ross Perlin, a Stanford graduate and onetime unpaid intern who is writing a book on the subject.

As always, the deciding factor must be, “Is the internship educational?” which of course, is core of our Internship Connection program.

My Comments on the NYTimes article “The Unpaid Intern”

The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not
Published: April 2, 2010

I recently heard from a parent of a former student we had placed on a government internship. He commented on the Times article and complimented our internship program, stating that he so appreciated our emphasis on educational internships.

National Association of Colleges and Employers survey found that 50 percent of graduating students had participated in internships. Internships — paid or unpaid — serve as valuable steppingstones that help young people land future jobs. “Internships have become the gateway into the white-collar work force,” said Ross Perlin, a Stanford graduate and onetime unpaid intern who is writing a book on the subject.

However,Many students said they had held internships that involved noneducational menial work. To be sure, many internships involve some unskilled work, but when the jobs are mostly drudgery, regulators say, it is clearly illegal not to pay interns.

One Ivy League student said she spent an unpaid three-month internship at a magazine packaging and shipping 20 or 40 apparel samples a day back to fashion houses that had provided them for photo shoots.

At Little Airplane, a Manhattan children’s film company, an N.Y.U. student who hoped to work in animation during her unpaid internship said she was instead assigned to the facilities department and ordered to wipe the door handles each day to minimize the spread of swine flu.

Trudy Steinfeld, director of N.Y.U.’s Office of Career Services, said she increasingly had to ride herd on employers to make sure their unpaid internships were educational.

Biomedical Internship for an 8th grader?

Believe it or not, I’ve had more than one request for this …and the answer is….. no! Which brings up a very important point. What is the best age for an internship?

It really depends on the maturity of the student. Sometimes a high school freshman can be more mature and ready for an internship than a high school senior. One very young student in our program did so well at her internship at an arts organization, the director told me that she was better than interns they’ve had from Harvard.

Ideally, sophomore and junior summer is ideal for a high school student. By then, they may have had an interesting course that sparked their interest or a school or family trip that inspired them. One mom told me that she thought her daughter would enjoy interior design but when we met with her, she spoke enthusiastically about a school trip to Washington, D.C. We placed her on a government internship at the State House where she was exposed to a myriad of experiences- everything from seeing how legislation is passed to attending hearings and lectures from mayors and governors.

With the internships fresh in their minds, students talk about their experiences during college interviews and on college essays.

So…. to our 8th graders (and their parents) – not this summer, but it’s always good to plan ahead.

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