A student I know once remarked that unpaid internships are the works of the devil. I’m really tempted to agree. Considering the times we live in, a lot of tertiary students cannot afford to spend their time working for free when it’s time for Industrial Training (IT), especially when so much money is being spent on their education.
I understand where she’s coming from. I once worked as an intern for a magazine in Victoria Island in Lagos and I lived on the Mainland. The transport fare alone was killing not to mention the stress of resuming and closing just like every other staff. Thankfully, the organization felt it would be nice to pay me even though they weren’t obliged to. Thus, I got back my transport fare and some spare change too. At that time, some of my coursemates were doing their internships with some newspapers and didn’t get a dime, not even transport fare. It can be very demoralising.
As a result of the gap between classroom and work experience, most employers expect graduates have some experience, even if it’s going to be through internships. Sadly, most organisations don’t want to pay interns these days. Students on the other hand believe that unpaid work is almost like slavery.
Of course, having unpaid internships will always look good on a resume, and they will help students get better jobs a lot easier. In reality, unpaid internships are more like volunteer work. They both do the same thing. They each involve large amounts of work, but those involved get nothing in return except experience and the chance to add an item to their resume. This doesn’t seem so bad, right?
And yes, not everyone is convinced that unpaid internships are a bad idea. Some people see them as valuable opportunities, particularly those that truly provide training.
Still, others believe that there aren’t many advantages to being an unpaid intern. According to a survey in 2011, unpaid internships provide no advantage in terms of full-time job offer rates or starting salary, while paid internships provided a substantial advantage. And that’s in the United States.
Unpaid internships give students much-needed experience before they go on to get an actual job. But why waste time doing so much work without getting paid when students can do that as volunteer work? What of those whose courses do not really have room for Industrial Training; languages, religious studies, philosophy, history, etc?
Perhaps there is a middle road.
Before my internship, I got the opportunity to work for the school newspaper published by my department. Some others worked with the cameras and audio visual equipment and today, they’re running their independent businesses as photographers and studio producers. Some English students then decided to spend time at the school radio station. At these places, we all were able to get the hands-on skills needed for our careers later on. Without having to get an unpaid internship, we were able to gain the skills needed toward graduation. We weren’t paid at these places, but we weren’t spending too much money on working without pay.
Still, having an unpaid internship is definitely something that shouldn’t be encouraged because of the negative impact it has on students’ finances and morale.