Last time I wrote about internships a few years back, I got some people upset. I feel interns should be paid for their time, while many people who use interns feel the "pay" they receive is the experience and resume-building.
I understand the reasoning behind the no-pay philosophy. At the same time, however, I feel if an intern is doing work --however menial it might be -- the intern is saving the employer some money that it would have to pay for someone else to do that work. Even an administrative assistant gets something, so why shouldn't the intern get, at the very least, enough money to cover carfare and lunch.
I'm pleased to see that the Public Relations Consultants Association, the UK's PR trade association, recently came out with a statement asking its member agencies to end unpaid internships. The group did a survey last year that found 70 percent of British PR internships are paid less even lower.
The PRCA says that paid internships will accomplish a few things. It will help bring the best and the brightest into the feld. It will also help encourage greater diversity in our industry, since unpaid internships often are simply not practical for young people from low-income families. So, out of necessity, they might be forced to take a summer job behind the counter at McDonald's rather than learn and get hands-on PR experience in an unpaid internship.
I don't know if PRSA has a position on paid or unpaid internships here in the U.S. My guess is they have no position, but they should. And it should echo what our British colleagues are doing.