Internships have often been considered the stepping-stones for students to get their foot in the door in the working world. With Drexel University’s education being so strongly based around the co-op system, it is easy for fellow Drexel students to understand the importance of these opportunities. At the same time, in recent years there has been an on going debate regarding the fairness of internships, specifically ones that are unpaid. In many creative fields, the line is blurred between where educational internships end and where unfair and exploitative internships begin. This blurred line has caused several lawsuits to pop up within the past year. The question on many people’s mind now is, will these lawsuits help or hurt young inspiring professionals?
Conde Nast, a powerhouse in the mass media industry, announced in late October that they plan to discontinue its internship program by 2014. This decision came four months after former interns slammed the mass media company with two different lawsuits. Conde Nast, which is based in New York City, owns 25 print and digital media brands including Architectural Digest, Don appetite, Glamour, Golf Digest, GQ, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and Vogue.
So what does this mean for the future of aspiring journalist who will now be denied the ability to intern at these publications? Though it is unfair for these companies to ask young interns to work long hours for free, do the positives of many of these internship opportunities outweigh the long hours of unpaid work being sacrificed?
Will young students lose their chance to get an insider’s experience at the companies they wish to work at? For many former interns of Conde Nast these internships helped pave the way to their current careers through the experiences they gained. Former Vogue intern Lauren Indvik, who is soon-to-be-co-editor in chief at Fashionista, says her internship was “So valuable” when asked her opinion about these recent negative claims. Internships allow people to learn how the company is run, gain skills taught to them by their employer, and build relationships with important people in the industry. They learn what it’s like to be in a professional setting and what it means to be dedicated to that company. All of these things help lead to future job opportunities. It also allows interns to realize if that specific career path is still what they want to pursue after graduation.
However, critics say that unpaid internships make it harder for students with lower financial backgrounds to get their foot in the door. But at the same time, these unpaid jobs can be compared to the large tuition fees many students pay to receive a college education. People have said hands on experience can be the best way to learn. This is especially true for many people in a creative industry. So what is the difference between sacrificing time to work unpaid in your desired industry and sacrificing money to earn a college degree? Students go into these internship programs aware of the little to no compensation but still choose to complete them. This is similar to how students enter a University willing to pay for the knowledge and education the school will provide for the next four years. The end goal of both is getting the young professional a job in the future.
Consequently, eliminating the intern program will open more entry-level positions for young people to get hired post graduation. Publications owned by Conde Nast will now be forced to hire additional employees to complete assignments no longer being completed by interns. This means more permanent paid job opportunities, which is beneficial after all for upcoming graduates entering the work force.