The Pros and Cons of Businesses Offering Unpaid Internships
The Covid-19 pandemic has been tough on everybody and has certainly made it more difficult for some companies to make ends meet. However, at the end of the day, pandemic or not, there is still work to be done. If this sounds like your company, you may have thought about offering unpaid internships to save money.
Unpaid internships are a bit of an ethical debate. Some believe that everyone deserves to be financially compensated for their hard work, while others believe the real-life experience is compensation enough. To help you or your business make this difficult decision we have put together a list of pros and cons of hiring unpaid interns.
The Pros of Unpaid Internships
Despite this ethical dilemma, offering unpaid internships have plenty of benefits. Not only will this benefit your company as you are saving money, but it will also benefit your unpaid interns in a few different ways. Continue reading below as we have outlined a some of those pros of having unpaid interns.
Pro #1: Interns Can Receive College Credits
Although you might not be able to give your interns money for their work, they may be eligible to receive college credits for the work they are doing. In order for college students to graduate they need a specific number of credits, so this is a good way for college students to accomplish two things at once. Also, some colleges or universities even require students to complete an internship in order to graduate. It's important to note, students will need to be careful and confirm with their school that what they are doing for their unpaid internship meets the requirements for college credits.
Pro #2: Valuable Experience
Maybe one of the biggest advantages of offering unpaid internships is that it gives your interns experience in the workplace which is extremely beneficial for college students. This experience allows college students to build their resume before finding a job after graduation. That means that while they might not be getting paid for their work, they can still learn and make themselves a stronger candidate for jobs post-graduation.
Pro #3: Networking
Another significant advantage of offering unpaid internships, is that it gives your interns the opportunity to meet new people within the industry. They will not only get to practice interacting with industry professionals but also have a wide variety of people to reach out to for help. This interaction with industry professionals could possibly help interns down the road when they are looking to get a job after graduation and could help college students get their foot in the door at the company they are interning at.
The Cons of Unpaid Internships
Although there are some advantages of offering unpaid internships, there are also some drawbacks to keep in mind before deciding whether or not to offer an unpaid internship this spring or summer.
Con #1: Potentially Limits Diversity and Opportunities
One of the biggest drawbacks of unpaid internships is the potentially limited diversity and opportunities. Many college students can't afford to work for free, especially while we are in a global pandemic so, this limits the pool of applicants willing to take on your unpaid internship. As a result this has the potential to affect the diversity of your company in the long run.
Con #2: Negatively Affects the Student Debt Crisis
Offering unpaid internships negatively affects the student debt crisis as it is no secret that the cost of higher education is increasing. As a result of these increasing costs, it will make it harder for students to pay back their loans. If these students end up taking unpaid internships while in school, it could potentially limit college student's ability to start saving which could possibly set them back even further post-graduation when it comes time to start paying back their loans.
Con #3: Could Actually Be Harmful to the Economy
With companies trying to save money, it could be tempting to fill an entry-level job with an unpaid intern or two instead of recent graduates.
Recent college graduates between the ages of 21 and 24 are unemployed or underemployed at rates higher than they were 20 years ago. Now, five percent of college graduates are unemployed, compared to only four percent in 2000. Additionally, 10 percent of college graduates are underemployed - again an increase from 6.5 percent in 2000.1 While it’s not the sole cause, taking opportunities away from those looking for full-time employment could be making an impact on the ability for recent graduates to get a job.
Offering an unpaid internship may make sense for you, your business and eager college students as you can save money and give college students much needed work experience. However, before deciding whether or not offering unpaid internships is the right move for your business, keep these pros and cons mentioned above in mind.
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