‘Intern Nation’

By Allie Grasgreen

The debate over unpaid internships is complex. Students want the experience, but not all can afford it, especially when they’re required to pay for the (sometimes mandatory) corresponding academic credit. Colleges want to graduate seasoned workers who’ve had myriad internship opportunities, but can’t always tell which internships are legitimate and don’t want to scare off potential employers by cracking down on what they offer. Well-meaning businesses want productive interns, but many say they can’t afford to pay them anymore.

Ross Perlin, a veteran of the unpaid internship and a researcher for the Himalayan Languages Project, in China, decided three years ago to investigate some of the issues that arise when these conflicting interests collide. What he found can be inferred through the title of his new book – Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy (Verso).

“I find the internships lacking on a number of levels,” Perlin said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. “Internships have become this key gateway into the white collar work force … but at the same time, access has become drastically unequal.” Over the last few decades, thanks to globalization, an economy in flux and over-credentialing, internships have become increasingly important for college graduates. But shoddy practices, little regulation and negligible or nonexistent wages have made it difficult for low-income students to compete with their more fortunate peers, he found.

Continued at: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/04/15/unpaid_internships_stir_
ethical_and_legal_debate_at_colleges_and_businesses

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