By Paige Lambert
Internships are a stereotypical requirement for college students, especially during the summer months, allowing them to gain experience and further their careers.
An unfortunate stereotype is also arising — the misuse and menial level of internship programs.
Multiple lawsuits revealed interns were not adequately compensated for their time, either through pay or training. For example, some companies were hiring unpaid interns but then offered little in the way of training or real-world experience.
The Department of Justice issued several criteria to help employers determine if an internship should be paid or unpaid.
The legal ripple effects are felt in all business sectors. According to a 2014 National Association of Colleges and Employers survey, two-thirds of all industries will decrease their internship programs this year.
However, a Texas State University professor believes when businesses utilize their interns appropriately, the results can be beneficial for both parties.
“Businesses I’ve worked with are pleasantly surprised when they realize what they can get out of a student intern, and utilize them to their fullest potential,” Matt Painter, MBA program director of McCoy College of Business Administration, said.
Painter credited improper training and orientation as issues that can start off an internship on the wrong foot.
“It’s particularly hard for a small business because it takes time to show someone how to do A, B and C,” Painter said. “However, the businesses that do that are rewarded in the long term.”
Along with training, setting expectations and goals early on also help the intern-business relationship, Painter said.
J.R. Gonzales, managing director of the Buda Chamber of Commerce, said he spent the first day of several new summer interns conducting orientation and training.
He asked them to keep a daily work journal.
“At the beginning of that journal I ask them to list 10 things they want to learn,” Gonzales said. “And I’m going to take that on as our responsibility to give them that experience.”
Doing this type of handiwork up front lends itself to treating interns like employees and having them experience daily life at a chamber, Gonzales said.
Most interns have completed at least the basic business courses, and in turn have new knowledge that can help businesses.
Tyler Zientara, Texas State business sophomore, said, his classes in computer information systems will help the chamber network and present projects to the city.
Interns not only bring new business knowledge, but new ideas and perspectives.
“These people are young. They know things like the Internet, social media. They are going to have skill sets that we don’t have in the chamber,” Gonzales said. “So by adding them to the chamber, it enhances our capability here to make sure we can knock out a better product.”
The Buda chamber recently brought on two summer interns.
In another example, Painter said an MBA business student from Texas State used her management knowledge and excelled, adding value to the company, which then hired her.
“If you put yourself in the employers shoes, how awesome is it to have an employee who from day one already knows your company,” Painter said. “They literally hit the ground running because they have been doing it for three or four months.”
Even if the company doesn’t offer a position or the intern doesn’t apply, both scenarios benefit the business, Painter said.
“You don’t go through the painful process of hiring somebody, bringing them onboard, and then realizing three months later that this isn’t a good fit,” Painter said.
For Zientara, the personal benefit opportunity to network and experience the real world of his field.
“I’ll have a better idea of what the business management field will be like,” Tyler said. “I’ll already have that under my belt and be able to refer back to whoever I meet here.”
Legal criteria for internships:
According to The Department of Labor, the following six legal criteria must be applied when making a determination if an internship is required to be paid.
1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.
4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.
5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.