Leslie Hook and Joseph Sternberg discuss their experiences as interns in today's WSJ.
"The Obama administration, or at least part of it, is turning its attention to an unlikely target: unpaid internships. "There aren't going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship [at a for-profit company] and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law," a Labor Department official recently told the New York Times.
"The fear seems to be that dishonest employers will use unpaid interns to do the work that salaried entry-level staffers used to do. Not only does this displace jobless workers in a down economy, it also exploits the college students so desperate for work that they'll do menial jobs for free. That's the theory, anyway.
"The reality is different, as we can both attest. Horror stories do circulate, but our much more ordinary experiences offer a reality check: In general unpaid internships end up being useful experiences—and serve several important functions in the labor market."
Read the whole thing, as they say.
Warren Meyer has a similar take, and includes this comment from another blog.
I have an unemployed friend trying to land work in a new field where she has no experience. She’s up against experienced applicants. I suggested she offer her services for free as an intern for 3 months in exchange for learning on the job and a letter of recommendation. She told me she didn’t think that was legal. I’m appalled to learn she is right! Yet how else is she going to get experience? She can’t afford school. Internships are a free education.