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Paid vs. Unpaid internships: 4 reasons why it makes good business sense to pay your intern

By December 17, 2010April 19th, 2024General

Paid vs. unpaid internship?

The debate was recently highlighted in the Globe and Mail. The article, The ins and outs of internships by Marjo Johne, features Career Edge Organization as their subject matter expert, and explores the benefits of internships in addition to the “paid vs. unpaid” debate.

Well, it’s not a simple choice. Clearly, a paid internship is better for the intern, but what about for you, the employers? What makes better business sense?

While in this post-recession economy, unpaid internships may make good business sense to employers, we can think of a few good reasons why paid internships are the way to go:

1. Motivation

While we are aware that money isn’t the single most important form of motivation, compensation is still a factor in getting the best results from your employees. If workers do not feel that they are getting compensated fairly for the work they do, they may not be giving you 100%.

You know what they say: you get what you pay for! Top talent are willing to work hard to get that much-needed first experience, but you’ll get the most if you pay them fairly. Even a modest stipend will do.

2. Talent Pool

Many people – including talented newcomers, persons with disabilities and recent university or college graduates – simply cannot afford to accept a job without pay. This is a scary thought because it means that your unpaid internship is cutting a significant population out of the talent pool.

One way of looking at it is that you could be systematically filtering out all of the dedicated, hardworking candidates who have to financially support themselves.

3. Retention

If you do bring on an unpaid intern, it may prove difficult to keep them. First of all, your unpaid intern may have to work a second job just to stay afloat – after a while they may find the balance too difficult.

Even if the person is being financially supported by family or loved ones during the internship, it may not be long before they start looking at job boards. Promises of potential paid opportunities “down the road” may not go very far either, as so many unpaid interns have been strung along by companies in the past, they may not take the bait.

4. Reputation and Ethics Considerations

Unpaid internships have a bit of a bad reputation. Some view it as exploitative and even unethical. In the comments that accompanied our Globe & Mail article, some even remarked that unpaid internships were “slave” labour! A bit of an extreme view point… but it’s not an uncommon one.

We’re not saying unpaid internships are all bad. For many job-seekers and employers alike, this has been a viable solution to their hiring needs. But there are countless advantages to hosting paid internships. We’ve been doing this for 15 years – we’ve place over 10,000 paid interns and helped over 1,000 employers find cost-effective talent solutions. Trust me, we would know!

Click here to read the full Globe and Mail article

What do you think about this? Leave a comment below!