On Wednesday June 1st, WNYC's Brian Lehrer spoke to Ross Perlin on air about his new book Intern Nation and the good the bad and the ugly of internships.
Several listeners called in to join the discussion and share their own diverse experiences with internships, and you can read additional comments to the segment by visiting wnyc.org.
Are interns destroying the value we place in work? Can we increase social mobility by reforming work experience? Or should they just be abolished?
Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation, joins Aditya Chakrabortty to discuss the impact of paid and unpaid internships on our economy. Also in the studio are Heather Stewart, the Observer's economics editor, and - a week into his own work experience at the Guardian - Christian Eriksson.
Aditya Chakrabortty: Who is excluded in intern culture?
Ross Perlin: First off, those who don't attend university to begin with are almost completely excluded, or those who don't go to better known universities, with the resources, with the kind of name brand that allows people to go out and land an internship. So first off, you have all those people who are effectively consigned then to the blue collar world as internships become the gateway to the white collar workforce. And with the white collar work force being the sort of sight of high paying influential jobs in a service based economy, this is a serious problem.
But then even at another level, with in those who do attend university, there is a real division between people... who can do this for a brief period of time, but then as soon as their student loans run out, or they're out of school, they have to move on and find paying work. So, as you see the rise of postgraduate internships, as you see people doing this during gap years, or while they kind of tread water while they're waiting for a regular job to materialize, those people are much more likely to come from well-heeled backgrounds. Or to be making a significant sacrifice working on the side, bartending evenings, doubling down on student loans, going deeper into debt, which will cause problems later on. So you see a significant number of people excluded. In the US I can say, you are really talking about 70-80 % of young people who really can not do any kind of work experience.
During his stop in DC to launch Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy, Ross Perlin appeared on The Kojo Nnamdi Show to discuss internships with Kojo and his listeners.
They don't just get coffee and make copies. Today, internships are encouraged by most parents and colleges, and exist in almost all industries. But are they the first step on a career path ... or free labor—or both? And what does the intern boom tell us about the values of the American workplace?
Visit The Kojo Nnamdi Show to listen to the interview and to access a transcript.