WSJ: War on Interns

7 April 2010 at 11:27PM Leave a comment

One of the house editorials from today’s (7 April) Wall Street Journal:

War on Interns

Making it illegal to work for free.

The labor market is still in recession, but for younger workers it feels more like a depression. In the last year, the unemployment rate among workers age 20 to 24 has risen to almost 16%, and among teenagers to 26%.

You might therefore expect a federal effort to encourage employers to give unskilled youngsters a chance. You would be wrong. The feds have instead decided to launch a campaign to crack down on unpaid internships that regulators claim violate minimum-wage laws.

“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,” the Labor Department’s Nancy J. Leppink tells the New York Times.

The Times also quotes Trudy Steinfeld, director of New York University’s Office of Career Services, regarding opportunities for unpaid internships. “A few famous banks have called and said, ‘We’d like to do this,’ said Ms. Steinfeld. “I said, ‘No way. You will not list on this campus.'” To be fair, she doesn’t want a Labor Department enforcer knocking on her door next week. But we wonder what NYU students trying to get their feet in the doors of financial firms think about Ms. Steinfeld rejecting opportunities on their behalf.

How all of this helps young people who are trying to develop marketable skills is a mystery. While the Department of Labor may insist the world owes these kids a living, the truth is that many young workers are willing to trade free labor for a chance to demonstrate their skills and build a resume for the next job. Especially in a bad labor market, the choice college students face may be to work without pay, or hang by the beach.

This isn’t exploiting young people. It’s letting young people exploit an opportunity.

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Entry filed under: College, NotJobs. Tags: , , , , , .

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