In my previous article I argued that from a societal perspective (and that’s pretty broad!) there is a need to facilitate and promote Stage 4 Career Development: Basic [institutional] Training and Socialization, and perhaps Stage 3: Entry into the World of Work.
Failure by societies to proactively facilitate these two stages of development is a major contributing factor in my mind to the increasing disaffection of the recent generational cohorts X & Y, and including the Millennials just now entering the work force. We have instead a jaded segment in society, possibly even alienated and potentially revolutionary. Young men especially – of any nationality, and including aboriginal – are particularly vulnerable to this malaise and instead of joining mainstream employment, marrying and raising families of their own, are increasingly discontent and frustrated. This failure is the current dirge of western societies, and perhaps a major factor for the political unrest in European countries and it seems to me, the USA and increasingly Canada. Moreover it is a huge waste of human potential.
Paid or Unpaid?
Whether internships should be paid or unpaid may be moot to this argument: the point of internships is to provide opportunity for people to gain valuable work experience and socialization. I believe that employers should at least offer some base compensation. It is interesting how it is accepted that unpaid volunteer work is okay for charitable organizations but is not okay for businesses… In my view, interns, just as coop students, should be paid an equitable salary: This allows them a sense of being valued, dignity and self-worth, equitably treated relative to other employees, and even defraying some of their own living expenses. The intern desperate for income may abandon his/her internship for a paying job, even if it is a poorer career development choice. Whether paid or unpaid, internships are not without cost to the organization: it still has to provide the infrastructure to screen and appoint candidates, provide supervision and assign and evaluate their work, and provide the physical work environment (desk, security, etc.). When an intern abandons his internship for another paying gig, the employer loses his investment, however modest. For these reasons I think government policy ought to include allowances to employers to compensate them and pay the intern an equity wage.
I’m not sure what Dan Price was thinking, or got it right, when he decided to pay a minimum salary of $70k to all employees (http://www.inc.com/magazine/201511/paul-keegan/does-more-pay-mean-more-growth.html) but Henry Ford was surely right when he decided to pay decent wages to employees so they too might have an opportunity to buy their own car and thus contribute to societal stability.
The Win-Win in Internships
Both the employers and the Intern – whether paid or unpaid – benefit from having a program of internships: the hiring organization does not have a long term obligation to the intern, and the intern gets valuable experience and that crucial few lines on his/her résumé. The organization has flexibility to adapt to its changing market situation and for that matter offer another candidate an internship. It the most optimistic scenario the employer may even decide to appoint the intern to a ‘permanent’ position.
The Intern also gains, even if he or she is not converted to ‘permanent’, because he or she has had some real work experience to put on the resume to break the cycle of disqualification for not having ‘prior experience’. Career counselors [and I am one] often strongly recommend that emerging graduates [and other job seekers] do ‘volunteer work’ to gain that critical early experience, a few relevant lines on their résumés, and some work references. And perhaps even that proverbial foot in the door. The intern has also gained for having begun the socialization process (which isn’t always positive!). In addition, as Schein makes clear, these early career development phases are a continuation of the exploration process as a young careerist examines and evaluates his/her career identity set.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Employers it seems to me have a social responsibility to the country in which it operates. One of these responsibilities is to sustain, as well as it can, employment opportunities. As I said in my previous article (rant?!), employers have failed to provide those crucial entry level jobs and opportunities. Instead the corporate world (and not just private business) have adopted an attitude of, this is not my responsibility; my responsibility is to my shareholder (stakeholder, members, pension fund) and I have to be ever-vigilant to managing costs. This often results in off-shoring jobs to developing (low cost) nations, and there is no room for new grads just entering the workforce. What we are doing as a society, of course, is not just increasing short-term ‘shareholder value’ but creating long term deficits in societal robustness.
Organizations should be encouraged to create opportunities for young citizens to help bridge this societal gap.
Internships it seems to me are the way to go, or at least one way.