Unpaid internships are leaving college seniors broke and unemployed after graduation, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

For the third consecutive year, NACE reported survey results showing unpaid internships do not benefit college students, especially in post-graduation employment.

In 2013, NACE found 63.1 percent of college seniors who completed a paid internship received at least one job offer, while only 37 percent of former unpaid interns were offered employment.

Debby Wall, director of internships at Elon University, argued otherwise.

According to Wall, all internships — paid and unpaid — benefit college students by offering course credit and experience.

Wall suggested multiple internship experiences are reasons for employment offers, not the intern’s salary. But students should not enter an internship with the expectation that they will receive a job offer, she said.

“Our students may not be offered a full-time job at the organization where they interned,” Wall said. “They are certainly attractive to other employers, though.”

The internship experience is designed to define a student’s professional career interests through a learning experience, not guarantee future employment within the company, according to Wall.

[quote]Students understand the value of accepting internships regardless of compensation. -- Debby Wall, director of internships at Elon University[/quote]

While Wall endorses both paid and unpaid internships, she said paid internships generally help students to manage their money.

“The advantage of a paid internship, other than the obvious pocket money, is that it rounds out the real work experience,” she said.

According to Wall, paid internships show students their employer values their efforts on the job.

NACE also reported paid interns are offered a higher salary over unpaid interns once they enter the job market.

Wall said she is hopeful that paid internships will eventually become the norm, due to the strict guidelines of the Fair Labor Standards Act in regards to internships.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, unpaid interns may be hired if they do not “displace regular employees” or if “the employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.”

Two interns recently won a lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures in Manhattan for failing to be compensated for their work on the 2010 film, “Black Swan.”

The interns claimed to have performed basic chores that benefited Fox Searchlight without having to pay the interns.

Since then, interns have filed lawsuits against Conde Nast and Warner Music Group, citing unpaid wages.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, college students could suffer if companies decide unpaid internships cause exposure to lawsuits, and paid internships are too expensive to offer.

Wall said she agreed companies will be forced to offer paid internships under strict U.S. Department of Labor regulations.

“In the future, I believe there will be more for-profit employers who will comply with the law,” Wall said. “I am proud that Elon values experiential education and students understand the value of accepting internships regardless of compensation"


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