As someone who benefited from two excellent internship programs, I’m a big proponent of the idea. What better way to get real-life, hands-on experience at a job site. Mine were through a social work Master’s program that carefully supervised interns and screened the workplaces.
Despite the professional settings, I do remember being asked to do some questionable things. Being an older, returning student who had worked in professional settings for years, I wasn’t an easy mark. When a psych nurse told me to go to a patient’s home alone and pack a suitcase, I was skeptical (liability!) and declined. She struck me as someone who probably expected interns to fetch her coffee.
Post-degree, I had the opportunity to supervise social work student interns. Remembering my experiences, I tried to provide a rich learning environment for my students. I felt that if they weren’t paid for their hard work, at least the training and exposure should be worthwhile.
In April 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor passed new guidelines for unpaid internships. Internships must now meet very strict criteria for unpaid work in for-profit companies. If the guidelines aren’t observed, the interns could be found to be “temporary staff,” and would need to be paid.
The guidelines include:
· Training must be similar to what would be given in an educational environment.
· The internship is for the benefit of the intern.
· The intern does not replace regular employees.
For more information, go to: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act (PDF).
So companies will need to thoroughly understand and communicate the parameters of the internship and not expect the unpaid folks to take up slack resulting from downsizing, etc.
And also remember, DO NOT ask the intern to take your Bimmer to be detailed – that is just not cool!
This is a post by Nancy LaFever. You can read more from her at the Centre for Emotional Wellbeing blog.