Although there are still a large number of unpaid internships (especially in the not-for-profit sector), many organizations are recognizing the true value of having highly educated and professional students fill their temporary hiring needs. Another benefit is that companies get to try out these “temporary employees” for a brief period of time with no commitment; but if they turn out to be motivated star players within the organization, they have the chance to offer them full-time employment once their “trial” period is completed. Having interns come in for brief periods of time offers employers huge benefits in meeting their future hiring needs. Employers not only learn the interns’ aptitudes and abilities but are assured that the intern really knows what they are getting into since they’ve become familiar with both the work involved and the business environment. This ultimately means higher employee retention in new employees and less employee turnover for employers.
Michael True, the Director of Messiah College’s Internship Center says, “The number of internships, paid and non-paid alike, are increasing, which helps students find work experience. He called the past couple of years the "golden age of internships." "Companies are realizing that this is a benefit to them because it's a crop of educated pre-professionals."
Attracting the Most Talented Students
When it comes to paid or unpaid internships, employers have an opportunity to attract talented students by offering a salary or monthly stipend. "If a student sees two internships that are basically the same, yet one is paid and one is not, it's no secret that they'll go after the paid one," True said. Cash is an incentive for interns to do a better job, too. "Students are committed to that project, paid or not. But if they're paid, they have an accountability to that job," said True.
Creating Equal Opportunities for Students
Paying interns also assures an employer that they are not overlooking successful students who can’t afford to work for nothing or pay for college credits to complete an internship during the summer. Many employers require students to receive credit for the internship in lieu of pay, to justify that the student is receiving some type of benefit for doing the internship. The problem with this is that many students cannot afford to pay for college credit if they are not paid for the internship. Students doing internships during fall or spring semester can usually roll their internship in with their college tuition; but if they do an internship during the summer, they have to pay the college a per credit hour fee. At some colleges they have initiated transcript notations as a way to show their commitment in honoring the value of an internship experience without requiring the student to pay any college fees. Transcript notations can be used when an internship does not qualify for credit or if students elect not to do the internship for credit due to academic requirements or additional tuition costs required by the college.
Colleges Offering Funding
Recently more and more colleges are putting together programs that offer students a stipend or provide funds for those doing unpaid internships for the summer. This is a great incentive for students to get experience in the nonprofit sector while being able to make some money to help with their living and college expenses. Some colleges offer alumni the opportunity to fund internships and this provides a win-win situation for the student, the alumni, and the college. Alumni get the chance to assist students from their alma mater (perhaps even offering a fund in their name), the college gets good press for helping students get relevant work experience prior to graduation, and students gain the knowledge and skills they need when entering the job market that will put them on par or ahead of the competition. The Praxis program at Smith College is a good example on what some colleges are doing to assist students by funding internships.
The Future of Paid Internships
All in all I think we are going to see more employers willing to pay their interns a salary as internships become more of an integral part of the employee hiring process; as well as more colleges who are willing to provide some form of compensation to offset the amount students are required to pay for receiving credit. These changes will provide more equality for students who have been unable to accept unpaid internships or for those where employers require that they receive credit in order to do an internship.