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Internships: Educational, Not Economical
bakemag.com, February 2012
by Staff

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Job opportunities are scarce for college students as well as recent graduates. As a result, internships are becoming standard routes for acquiring hands-on experience.

As an employer, there are a number of advantages to offering internships; however, Federal regulations prioritize the trainee’s educational experience above the company’s benefits. In other words, think of your internship program as a valuable work experience, not your opportunity to cut labor expenses. Before wrangling up a gang of unemployed recent graduates, you may want to skim through the Wage and Hour Division of The Fair Labor Standards Act. It provides an in-depth explanation of the regulations regarding unpaid internships.

While each state typically has unique labor laws, The Department of Labor created a list of six requirements that nationally differentiate an employee from a trainee. An employee is entitled to federal and state labor laws including, but not limited to, minimum wage and overtime.

On the other hand, a trainee or an unpaid intern does not benefit from the same regulations. Primarily, an unpaid intern is compensated with valuable experience. If an unpaid intern is benefitting the company in any way and not furthering their skill sets, it is possible their position is in conflict with The Fair Labor Standards Act.

The labor laws surrounding trainees have recently become stricter, primarily because many employers were exploiting the opportunity of free labor. Considering that internships often represent long-term advancement in a profession, many advocates of these regulations believe interns are unlikely to file complaints or document violations because they fear their employer will ostracize or blacklist them. As stringent as it may seem, several states, such as California and Oregon, are strictly enforcing these laws and fining employers for breaking minimum wage laws.

There are a number of practices that can ensure the internship you offer respects the labor regulations. If the intern is a student, organizing a credit system with the school will assist in making it an educational experience. Confirming a list of skills that the intern will acquire during the internship will support the value of the unpaid experience. In addition, it is important to set and communicate beginning and end dates for the experience. Lastly, promising job entitlement at the beginning of the internship can be interpreted as manipulative, particularly if the employer decides not hire the trainee at the conclusion of the internship.

6 Factors Trainee VS Employee

1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction.

2 .Training is for the benefit of the trainees.

3. Trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation.

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded.

5. Trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period.

6. The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

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