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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy » User review

Parents and students beware......an eye-opening expose!

  • Sep 26, 2011
Rating:
+5
It is a subject I had never really thought much about before. On the surface the idea of a college student or a recent college graduate serving a short internship as a means to gain meaningful experience, explore career choices or get a foot in the door of a potential employer seems altogether reasonable. Over the past two decades internships have become increasingly popular. In any given year between one and two million Americans serve as interns. But according to author Ross Perlin the nature of many of these internships has changed dramatically in recent years. In fact, he discovered that a large percentage of them are actually illegal! In his new book "Intern Nation: How To Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy" Ross Perlin presents a comprehensive overview of internships that will certainly give high school and college students and their parents pause for thought. Frankly, I was outraged at the way that some companies, colleges and even non-profits are taking advantage of many of these unsuspecting students.

Perlin opens "Intern Nation" by chronicling the way that Disney has gamed the system in recent years. The folks at Disney World have discovered that they can replace lots of full-time employees with interns who work for little or no pay. You will find these so-called interns working in gift shops, greeting guests, flipping burgers and operating rides. Furthermore, many of these students are actually paying colleges to receive credit for their internship. That is simply unconscionable! But wait. It is not just those greedy capitalists who are taking advantage of the system. Did you know that there are 1.5 million non-profit organizations in this country? Perlin found numerous instances where the top executives at these organizations were making hundreds of thousands of dollars annually while paying their eager and well-meaning interns little or nothing. The same holds true for many agencies at all levels of government. Because the laws surrounding internships are so fuzzy, many of these young people are clearly being taken advantage of. And why might you ask have we not heard more about this issue in the media? You guessed it. Print and electronic media companies utilize tons of interns and are among the biggest offenders.

Still, internships are all the rage at college campuses around the country. There are websites marketing internships (University of Dreams) and individuals with monikers like Intern Lady and Intern Guru hawking all sorts of paraphernalia on their websites. There are even internship auctions! This is not to say that all internships are a scam. Certainly there are thousands of legitimate internships available from highly-reputable organizations. Still many of these internships offer little or nothing in the way of compensation. The stark economic reality is that most of the primo opportunities are snapped up by the children of the elite and the well-to-do who can afford to work for little or nothing for an extended period of time. Students from working- class families are left to fight for the scraps. It seems to me that there is definitely something wrong with this picture.

In my view "Intern Nation" should be required reading for anyone out there who is even remotely considering an internship. Students and parents need to be vigilant and do their homework before committing to one of these so-called "opportunities". Meanwhile, the spike in internships has had implications for our economy that extend far beyond the college crowd. As CUNY Political Science Professor Frances Fox Piven points out on the back cover of the book "Cloaked in the innocent idea of the intern, aggressive employers are using young people trying to get a foothold to weaken the leverage of existing workers, especially professionals." I completely concur. I am already spreading the word about "Intern Nation: How To Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy" to friends and family. I commend Ross Perlin for bringing these extremely important issues to light. This is an extremely well-written book that deserves your time and attention. Very highly recommended!
Parents and students beware......an eye-opening expose! Parents and students beware......an eye-opening expose!

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September 03, 2012
So basically all those coffee-fetcher jokes are true.
 
January 15, 2012
The Federal Work Study Program is founded upon the notion that students receive a stipend- usually larger than the minimum wage for doing work at a local college. i.e. science labs, computer labs, library etc. This gives students money and practical work experience.


Some professions like medicine have internships so that students receive a minimum threshold of experience prior to applying for a professional license. Boards of the Professions generally do not certify people without work experience for very obvious reasons.


Colleges have the responsibility of teaching students the theory, as well as practical application and this leads to internships, case studies etc. Colleges must fund operations from alumna, government grants, tuition, event sponsoring, selling memorabilia and even renting quarters to students for boarding. Anything that increases costs will eventually increase tuitions which are paid for by parents and students.


In the Middle Ages, most students became professionals through a long apprenticeship in a profession or trade. In fact, students and mentors were matched about one to one in the time of Adam Smith.


There are instances you mention where apprenticeship can get out of hand and profit for a few trumps the purpose of education or licensure in a particular profession. To a considerable extent, we need apprentices, as well as a considerable monitoring to ensure that people are not exploited for profit solely.


The issue is pertinent right now because the baby boomers are retiring in large numbers. Who will replace them if we don't have a strong program of apprenticeship? How will students get practical experience? Would you go to a physician or dentist just out of medical school with no practical exposure to cadavers and/or live patients? The issue is topical right now because millions of professionals must be replaced this decade due to the oncoming retirement of the baby boom generation. This, by the way, follows a terrible recession where budgets everywhere were cut to the bone quite literally.
 
September 27, 2011
Great review, Paul.  This is definitely eye-opening.  When I was in college and reading up on internships for hospitals (I had wanted to work in the mental health field), then I found out that it was actually mostly counting pills and filing papers.  ...Not exactly what I had in mind.

This reminds me of foreign exchange controversies that I've read about, like this one:


Hard to believe that things like these are happening in the States.
September 27, 2011
Thanks for the comments and the eye-opening video. This an extremely important topic that parents and high school and college age students need to educate themselves about.
 
September 27, 2011
I agree that there are a ton of companies that use interns to create competition amongst paid, full-time employees. I have used Interns. They have been incredibly helpful and mutually beneficial, a couple of them went on to get full-time positions with me and another, went on to make much more money with my glowing recommendation. I think that interns are a great idea but, I do agree that we need to be careful to not exploit these young, eager minds. Great review!
 
September 27, 2011
The Federal Work Study Program is the way to go for college students to earn money while studying. Work-study jobs involve staffing library facilities, computer labs, science labs and many other responsible tasks that earn students real money and real work experience. About 75% of federal expenditures on collegiate education is on federal work study and not student loans. Many people don't know this aspect.
 
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About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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About this book

Wiki

The first no-holds-barred exposé of the exploitative and divisive world of internships.

Every year, between one and two million Americans work as interns. They famously shuttle coffee in a thousand newsrooms, congressional offices, and Hollywood studios, but they also deliver aid in Afghanistan, build the human genome, and pick up garbage. They are increasingly of all ages, and their numbers are growing fast—from 17 percent of college graduates in 1992 to 50 percent in 2008. A huge and increasing number of internships are illegal under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and this mass exploitation saves firms more than $600 million each year. Interns enjoy no workplace protections and no standing in courts of law—let alone benefits like health care.

Ross Perlin has written the first exposé of this world of drudgery and aspiration. In this witty, astonishing, and serious investigative work, Perlin takes the reader inside both boutique nonprofits and megacorporations such as Disney (which employs 8,000 interns at Disney World alone). He profiles fellow interns, talks to academics and professionals about what unleashed this phenomenon, and explains why the intern boom is perverting workplace practices in locations all around the world.

Insightful and humorous, Intern Nation will transform the way we think about the culture of work.

Please direct North American press inquiries to jessica@versobooks.com

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Details

ISBN-10: 1844676862
ISBN-13: 978-1844676866
Publisher: Verso
Date Published: May 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
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