Internships are a type of employment that are usually designed for the young and inexperienced. It is a gateway to the world of work and an opportunity to learn new skills and make new connections for the intern. For the organisation, it is a chance for them to showcase their employer branding, create mentor/mentee relationships, education institution relationship, gain new perspectives, and extra sets of hands to help around the organisation. Internships are traditionally unpaid however, a good number of organisations have opted to offer paid internships instead nowadays. With mounting inflation impacting the cost of living everywhere in the world and a more humanistic stance in HR management, should unpaid internships be abolished?
The obvious main disadvantage of being an unpaid intern is being ‘unpaid’. Without some form of financial support (For e.g, an allowance from a guardian, student loan grants, part-time employment, savings and etc.), interns would be unable to fulfil their basic needs to survive such as having shelter, transportation, and food on their own. Hence, like any other form of employment, choosing to be an intern depends on individual circumstance. We should also acknowledge that internships are mostly targeted towards aspiring students. Also, unpaid internships can be beneficial in other ways for interns but this depends on the organisation’s manpower development plan and strategy. For instance, organisations may provide free training, access to organisational facilities, and possibly offer future employment opportunities to their interns (given that they have performed in their role and are able/willing to engage in more complex tasks).
Paid internship opportunities on the other hand, are very attractive especially to those who have yet to earn proper income. Being paid as an intern gives the intern some level of independence, it may boost confidence, and motivation as well. However, the pay does not necessarily compensate for most expenses. Furthermore, paid internships are often treated more like entry-level positions with entry-level work. This can be difficult especially for students who lack the basic skills and experience to perform any entry-level tasks. Another issue that may arise is the management’s perception of the intern’s motivation for working within an organisation. For example, an intern who values money more than the experience would be viewed less favourably by management than an intern who took the internship opportunity to develop their skills further.
The issues of whether interns should be paid or not, depends on the laws of a state, district, or country, the organisation’s manpower strategy and plan, the budget of an organisation, as well as the situation of the average intern in an economy. To attract and identify the best talents to an organisation requires investments into building the employer branding and fostering a conducive relationship between the employers, the institutions, and the interns. The objective should always be to develop our future people’s skills and ensure that interns receive a positive learning experience with the organisation, be it paid or unpaid.
Have you done an internship before? Were you paid or unpaid? What are your opinions on ‘unpaid internships’? Share your thoughts below by commenting, reacting, or reposting this article!