General Question

glassbottle's avatar

Why are companies so limited with their internship opportunities?

Asked by glassbottle (6points) March 31st, 2009

One would think that cheap/free labor is a great a value…so why do businesses have such limited internship positions? If I were CEO of an organization I would have room for loads of talented interns, given they cost little-to-nothing for their young talent, fresh perspective, etc…what stops companies from offering internships?

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5 Answers

cwilbur's avatar

They cost quite a bit. Someone has to do all their HR paperwork, show them where the mail room is, support their computer and their phone, keep track of their working hours.

Having worked with an intern before, I can tell you for a fact that the constant question is always whether you can find something that the intern is capable of doing that is actually useful to do. Most of the people in my department have a great deal of experience, and so our intern was enthusiastic but needed a lot of help putting together any of his ideas so that they could work. This took paid employee time.

So I think you’re overvaluing youthful enthusiasm, especially given the cost of experience that it takes to make the intern’s ideas workable.

bpeoples's avatar

Point by point:

- Interns are not necessarily a great value. While their labor cost is free, training them up (and usually they’re only around for a semester or so), can be a bit of a drag on the folks training them up.

- “talented interns” is sort of a misnomer. Everyone wants talented interns, but it’s hard work to sort them out from the “not quite so talented interns”

- “fresh perspective”: very few companies want a fresh perspective on things. You’re looking at well oiled machine, it doesn’t want to know that if they spend 3 weeks reorganizing the filing cabinet they’ll save 30 seconds a year.

However, many companies will do internship programs, or put together a summer job for someone who seems interesting. In my company, the work is so specialized that it takes about 3–6 months of working there before you have any idea what’s going on.

Editing to add to this what was said above: it’s frequently more worthwhile for a company to invest in a permanent employee who will turn into an experienced employee, rather than take on an intern who will take what experience they gain and move on.

dynamicduo's avatar

It’s worth pointing out from the start that here in Canada at least, “intern” does not mean “free work”. When I was an intern within the past few years, I was being paid $13CDN an hour. Sure it’s less than a salary, but it’s still a cost.

Interns are hit and miss, and this is only really discovered once they’ve worked for a few weeks, even when you weed out the obvious “bad” ones through interviews. Hiring an intern means taking a roll of the roulette wheel as to whether you’ll get a skilled efficient intern or a slow lazy one.

The sheer nature of internship means the company pours a lot of assets (time, money, effort) into making the intern a part of their world, but the intern is not obliged to work there beyond the internship period. And again, the company doesn’t know whether their effort has value until the internship is in progress.

With youth comes inexperience. This is a big point to consider.

YARNLADY's avatar

In addition to all the other great answers here, interns have no vested interest in the company or the work, and have not developed the work ethic a paid employee has.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Some companies don’t have enough work this year to justify the administrative costs of having an intern. The surest way not to have to lay people off is to reduce overhead.

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