Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Paying for unpaid work: Market for internships, continued

When "experience" is necessary for a new job, acquiring experience is worth paying for. In an earlier post, I wrote about paying for unpaid internships in Britain, and now a very well written story by Gerry Shih in the NY Times outlines similar developments in the U.S.: Unpaid Work, but They Pay for Privilege. I quote his story at length below, with the kicker being the last paragraph quoted:)

"With paying jobs so hard to get in this weak market, a lot of college graduates would gladly settle for a nonpaying internship. But even then, they are competing with laid-off employees with far more experience.
So growing numbers of new graduates — or, more often, their parents — are paying thousands of dollars to services that help them land internships.
Call these unpaid internships that you pay for.
“It’s kind of crazy,” said David Gaston, director of the University of Kansas career center. “The demand for internships in the past 5, 10 years has opened up this huge market. At this point, all we can do is teach students to understand that they’re paying and to ask the right questions.” "
"Andrew’s parents used a company called the University of Dreams, the largest and most visible player in an industry that has boomed in recent years as internship experience has become a near-necessity on any competitive entry-level résumé.
The company says it saw a spike in interest this year due to the downturn, as the number of applicants surged above 9,000, 30 percent higher than in 2008. And unlike prior years, the company says, a significant number of its clients were recent graduates, rather than the usual college juniors."
"But many educators and students argue that the programs bridge one gulf — between those who have degrees from prestigious colleges or family connections and those who do not — only to create a new one, between the students who have parents willing and able to buy their children better job prospects and those who do not.
“You’re going to increase that divide early, on families that understand that investment process and will pay and the families that don’t,” said Anthony Antonio, a professor of education at Stanford University. “This is just ratcheting it up another notch, which is quite frightening.” "
"The industry dismisses the criticism.
“Universities forget that they themselves are, in essence, businesses,” said C. Mason Gates, the president of Internships.com, an online placement service. “Just because they’re doing it in a nonprofit fashion doesn’t mean that those of us doing it for profit are doing it incorrectly.”"

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