Student interns should be paid

Aimee Barrera, Reporter

University students look for opportunities to get ahead in the job market by applying to internships to develop new skills, learn through practice, network, and open the door to higher chances of employment after college.

There is controversy on whether internships should be allowed to be unpaid as it can be seen as exploitation of free labor and excludes a whole population of students who can’t afford to work an unpaid internship. I believe that it is unfair for student interns to go unpaid for their work because it is inconsiderate to those who can’t afford to work an unpaid internship.

So, why are businesses and companies allowed to have unpaid interns?

The Fair Labor and Standards has regulations on what can be considered an unpaid internship, there is a “primary beneficiary test,” to determine if a student is an intern or employee. 

Some components of the test include a clear understanding between employer and intern that there will be no compensation, training should be provided in an education setting and be tied to their education program by coursework or academic credit, and accommodation for school schedule. 

Internships help students get their foot in the door in the industries they are looking to build a career in. According to Business News Daily,Approximately 70% of employers offer their interns full-time jobs.”

California Lutheran University Senior Brandon Perry is studying marketing and has an internship in the Venture Capital industry. 

Perry said in an email interview that while some people aren’t willing to be unpaid he was willing because in return he would be gaining something more valuable than pay or college credit. 

I was willing to be unpaid, because I was sure that this is the industry I wanted to work in. Also, there is a cultural element to being an unpaid intern in the VC space. A lot of the partners at the firm were startup founders, so they value scrappy people who will work hard for a shot. Mainly, people who will work for free,” Perry said.

Perry said he feels that good unpaid internships are ‘completely justifiable’ if interns are coming in with, “little to no experience” because in return they will be gaining valuable experience.

A firm that educates its interns, helps create business connections, and provides transferable work experience is what a good internship should look like. If the firm you work for is not paying you and you aren’t receiving those benefits or even avenues to attain those benefits, then the internship is not valuable,” Perry said.

While unpaid internships can definitely provide valuable experience to students who have very little work experience in their industry, I don’t think students should have to choose between valuable experience and pay because there is a whole student population with lower economic backgrounds that do not have the financial means and support to work unpaid internships.

According to an article published by Investopedia, “Unpaid internships can exacerbate socioeconomic and racial inequality since they close off opportunities to applicants who don’t come from affluent families and can’t afford to work for free.”

Investopedia also stated that because there is a racial wealth gap in Black and Latinx communities, “families may be disproportionately unable to subsidize their child’s living and college expenses in order for them to take an unpaid internship.”

In most cases students from low income households with limited parental financial support available do not have the luxury of working for a good unpaid internship, therefore excluding  minority students from gaining that valuable experience. 

Paying interns can help solve the social inequality of unpaid internships. More paid internships means that all students, regardless of financial status, can gain experience that is relevant to their career path while being able to have a degree of financial stability.