Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Your Business Charity Does Not Begin in My Home

Do I ask your company to subsidize mine? Of course not. So why are so many business executives these days asking parents of college students to subsidize theirs?

This is a rant in case you haven't figured that out yet. Every day online, I see a new posting from companies offering unpaid student internships for the summer. It makes me crazy. It's so totally wrong.

I understand that business is still not what it should be. Businesses figure it's a fair trade to give college kids experience while they make money on their work. Well I'm here to tell you that there's another side to this story.

As the parent of an almost college student looking at annual tuition in the tens of thousands of dollars, I can tell you that the kids don't profit from this approach. The next generation of workers aka college kids, need to learn that when they work hard they get paid for it. That companies value their time and skills enough to compensate them. That when students give their time, it should be to causes they believe in where there are clear benefits for those less fortunate than they are, the environment, the world at large. Not some businesses' bottom line. 

That's how kids develop a value system that will carry them forward and make them productive, compassionate people. Of course there are parents who are willing to subsidize their kids getting business experience but that's because they can afford it. Most parents are not the one percent whose kids take "gap years" and can afford to work all summer long on mommy and/or dad's income. 

My kids will work before, during and after college. It's an economic necessity. And it's good for them to learn the value of work. How can this nation ever create "real jobs" if businesses are taking advantage of student time and saddling they and their parents with more debt? Yes the job market is still lousy and it's doable. But that doesn't make it right.

We're a small company and we always pay our interns. We don't pay them a lot because we can't, but we want them to care about the work they're doing, learn how to do it right, and make a contribution to our growth and theirs. Of course, we could find free interns, but we do it because we don't believe in taking advantage of students and their families. Period.

Besides what happens when your student interns work for free? You get trust fund babies who can afford to do unpaid internships. Not my magnet program son or any of his friends. The best and brightest end up working in a store or a restaurant or a camp or someplace that pays them wages. They have to earn money over the summer to help pay their way. 

They're the children of the 99 percent. And the other one percent of kids. They're on vacation.

Pay your interns because in the end you get what you pay for. And it's not my job to subsidize your company. I don't ask you to subsidize mine.