No, not me. But, are you? Summer internships are key to for college graduates entering the job market. In fact, data suggests that it is a huge differentiator on a resume. The reasons are obvious: Employers want to hire new people who have work experience. Not that there is any research which supports that this previous work experience (usually making copies, running errands, taking notes in meetings, etc.) actually predicts performance. But, it does show some work drive and interest in the field. And, well, you have to have some way to screen resumes.
More intriguing is the movement of companies going away from unpaid internships. This is not driven by altruism, but by lawsuits, or threats of them. Profitable companies have always used this rationale for not paying interns, “Well, we the students are getting valuable experience,” which is correct, yet incomplete. The full statement would read, “We provide the students experience, we get way more applicants than slots, therefore we can get away with exploiting them.” If the work the interns perform is valuable to the company, then pay them. If it’s not, then why bother with the costs of setting up and managing the program?
Let’s say you use your internship programs as a bit of a tryout for students you would consider hiring (which, I think is a good strategy as you get to see their potential and work habits up close for a period of time). If your internships are unpaid, you have pretty much eliminated any college student who cannot afford to go three months without any income. This can really limit the talent pool from which you can draw and defeats the purpose of it being used as part of your selection process.
Having a summer internship program can be a huge win. You can get some short-term projects done, give a young person some valuable work experience, and kick off your new hire selection process. By paying your interns, you make your program fairer to them and a more effective part of new employee evaluation methodology.
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