The end of public sector internships

When I was Production Manager at a TV station I used to have 1 – 3 unpaid interns from the local university helping us produce newscasts. It was in many instances, a symbiotic relationship that benefited both the intern and the station. I got some free help for my skeleton crews and the intern got real experience and college credit. The more motivated ones were very helpful and I usually looked to hire them when I had an opening. According to this (from the NY Times) all of that is about to go away thanks to our dear comrade leader’s Labor Department.

The Labor Department says it is cracking down on firms that fail to pay interns properly and expanding efforts to educate companies, colleges and students on the law regarding internships.

“If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the department’s wage and hour division.

What is important to remember here is this:

  • The interns all understood that this was an unpaid position.
  • They applied to us – we did not solicit the university, nor twist any arms in the process.
  • While I got some free help, for the most part interns were highly unreliable.
  • When the intern completed the program, I was obliged to fill out a bunch of paperwork so they could get credit.

In our particular situation most of the benefit was for the intern. I’m sure that there are companies that take advantage of unpaid internships but the bottom line is the intern knows that this is an unpaid position up front. They don’t have to participate if they feel they are being abused. So where is the government’s role here?

This is another story (from Reason Magazine) of the implications of the government’s assault on internships. Read the whole thing.


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