Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Are Internships Apprenticeships or Bargains?

Pounding the pavement marketing my growing web consulting business, I often run into a hard to overcome obstacle that is a symptom of this economy. On opposite ends of an ever growing problem, I run into internships.

Outside of this economy internships were rarely heard of except in the medical and teaching professions. In today's economy it is difficult for students or new grads to obtain paid work---so the schools and students are marketing students and new grads to companies as interns for little or no pay. Big and small corporations alike can benefit from this free labor.

The downside is that even though the student may gain experience, only the rich students or grads can afford to work for nothing, thus gaining an advantage over a poorer student who will take a minimum wage job in an unrelated field to support themselves. Paying jobs are also taken out of the economy as minimum wage laws are by passed in the name of free labor.

And is the free labor always a bargain for business? With 30 years of practical business experience I can offer a small business actual expertise in marketing, training, management, IT, and business administration. Because I'm a new business, I work at a reduced rate that is very reasonable for a small business. I have a vested interest in every job I do---I'm growing a business and hope to employ others some day. I build the business one relationship at a time and want satisfied customers no matter what.

Visiting one business, I am told that the owner feels he can't afford to pay for a website and is looking for an intern to put a site up.

And I rarely hear about the good intern experiences; in fact I haven't heard anyone rave about how they brought in an intern and now have a wonderful site. I do listen, often, to a very disgruntled business owner, who normally has sworn off  a business website altogether because an intern has left a half done site that poorly represents the business. Often the owner has been locked out of his or her own site. The owner simply hasn't the time or resources to clean up the mess that has been left.

I hear these stories over and over again---for every 20 businesses I contact, I listen politely to one tale of woe; knowing as I listen that chances are I will never convince this prospect that I can change that woe into wow.

This brand of internship does a disservice to us all. Not only does the business owner suffer, but the student couldn't have had a positive, learning experience either. The student was not an apprentice, learning with a master. The student, being left to flounder on his own, didn't learn anything from the experience and came away with nothing for the efforts put forth for free---not even a reference.

It's just a no win situation. Business owners lose. Students lose. Unemployed lose. And in this economy we don't need that.


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