first_imgThough getting coffee for bosses might be an outdated stereotype of college internships, debate and controversy continue to surround the practice.According to an investigation released by ProPublica on Tuesday, Northwestern University began asking companies where students intern to begin paying the interns. NU’s Medill School of Journalism requires students to complete a semester long internship.Internships  can play an influential role in students’ career choices and open the door to professional opportunities. Many believe that unpaid internships, however, create a blurred line between a company creating a hands-on experience for students and taking advantage of students.The debate about paid internships versus unpaid internships is a serious concern to many USC students. The USC Career Center works with students through programs, workshops and one-on-one meetings to help them obtain internships.“It’s really hands-on experience that allows a student to test drive an industry or organization,” said Lauren Opgenorth, assistant director of internships and special programs at the USC Career Center. “They can take what they’ve learned from the classroom and apply it.”Internships can also be the path to a job. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ 2013 Internship & Co-op Survey, employers made full-time offers to 56.5 percent of their interns.Internships can vary significantly. They range from just a few hours per week to a full-time commitment, paid to unpaid, with a stipend or for class credit. Responsibilities also vary for different positions.The United States Department of Labor outlines a test with six criteria that determines whether interns must be paid under the Fair Labor Standards Act.The criteria states that interns cannot take the place of regular employees, both the employer and the intern understands that the intern is not entitled to pay, that the intern must get hands-on experience and that the intern’s time in the position must primarily benefit him or her.Some students, however, say they are frustrated by the prevalence of unpaid internships because they believe their work at such internships often mirrors the work of a paid, full-time employee.“I am super appreciative of the experience, but at the same time I’m doing exactly the same thing that [paid employees] are doing,” said Mary Vu, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law.Vu interned for JusticeCorps, who trained her in small claims court processes, from 2012 to the summer of 2013 for 10 hours each week. The internship was unpaid, but Vu was granted a small stipend after completing the program.Many students are willing to complete unpaid internships even though they believe them to be unfair.“I know [companies] take advantage of [unpaid interns], but that’s just how it is in this society,” said Harold Min, a junior majoring in business administration.Min completed an unpaid summer internship with Aflac, an insurance agency, in the human resources department, working a minimum of 20 hours per week.Other college students complete  internships simply to make their resumes shine.“Human resources is not something that I want to pursue,” Min said of his internship. “I just did it for my resume…It’s an attention grabber when potential employers see it on my resume.”Andrea Lawler, a senior majoring in electrical engineering and writing for screen and television who works as a paid intern for Walt Disney Imagineering disagreed with the resume-boosting philosophy.“If somebody just wants to put something on their resume, I feel like they’re not getting the most out of an internship as they can,” Lawler said.Cristina Mello, a junior majoring in music industry who interned at SUPERGOODMUSIC in April, agreed.“This internship has taught me that at the end of the day, it’s about how much you put yourself out there and how much you’re willing to branch out and network in your field,” Mello said.Networking is just one of many benefits an internship can provide.“As long as you’re having some sort of practical experience, working on your transferrable skills and learning a little bit more about an industry, it’s a win-win,” Opgenorth said. “People underestimate the value of an internship. It really is a catalyst for student’s careers.”last_img

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