For a long time unpaid internships have been framed as a way for teenagers to gain experience before entering the workforce, but the reality is that they are very unfair. Unpaid internships give teenagers who don’t need to make money an advantage over students who need money to support themselves, support their family, or save for the future.
Internships help teenagers gain experience so that they can be hired for a paying job. Many internships now are paid or workers get a stipend, but internships as a system started as being unpaid. It is unfair for companies to require people to work unpaid internships in order to be hired, because many people cannot take on this kind of internship. Most teens need to work in order to make money. According to the Harvard Business Review 43% of internships at for-profit companies are unpaid.
Rohun Barot, a senior in Academic Choice said, “I would never do an unpaid internship. Only paid. I’m still doing work and I better be compensated for it.” Although teens do not have the experience older workers may have, they are still workers. An internship is still a job they are putting time, energy and care into. They deserve to be compensated for that, like any other job.
On the other hand there are some types of internships which are solely for the student’s learning experience. For students who do not need to make money, unpaid internships may be worth it and can provide valuable experiences. “For some people who don’t really care or have an okay monetary background, doing an unpaid internship solely for the experience is fine. They’re getting hands-on experience and are doing it willfully,” said Barot.
However the issue remains that unpaid internships give teens who can afford to do them a leg up on teens who cannot. This is not teenagers’ responsibility, the companies who have unpaid internships should start labeling these experiences as something other than an internship. Teenagers follow the system that is in place, doing what they are told is necessary to later enter the workforce. Companies who give internships should be responsible for changing the system and making sure it is fair.
While unpaid internships can provide teenagers with valuable experiences, they unfairly benefit teens who do not need to make money and therefore further inequality. Additionally, in many unpaid internships the teenager is putting the same effort and time they would for a paid job. Everyone should be compensated for their work, teenagers should not be taken advantage of simply because they have less experience.