Interns – They are not free labor (old post, reposted)

I am going to get on a high horse here.

I want to talk about interns. Interns are a very valuable resource to be fortunate to have. Interns are the future. They became interns to further their education in what you and your company do.

in-tern n.

A student or a recent graduate undergoing supervised practical training.

Interns are NOT:

  • Minions to do your dirty work
  • Someone to get you coffee
  • Someone to have clean up your mess
  • Someone you do not pay 

Now a days, people advertise for Interns that they do not pay, in exchange for teaching them all about what they do or to enhance the intern’s skills. What ends up happening is that they essentially use them to do the tedious work, without instruction, and then yell at them when the Intern does it wrong.

When I was pre-graduate, I got to intern at a computer company, that I later joined, because the intern experience was so good. I worked in the company’s traditional products group and did things like how to build a version of the PDP-8’s OS on a DF32 disk. (OS/8 was the OS). This was done by using a rack of paper tape in an ASR-33 teletype at 110 baud, toggling in the RIM loader, then the binary loader, then the system loader, system builder, etc, all on paper tape. I thought it was tedious, but it taught me one thing: I want to build better tools and better operating systems. So I went on in my career to do that. 

All because I was intern, I was paid, and I learned something invaluable.

I have someone very close to me who “intern’d” for a publication. That person did a lot of hard work, but it was mostly all the stuff the publisher did not want to do, and she never got paid for it. She kept asking to learn things, and was told “just do this tedious stuff, for free”

Too many companies are using Interns as free labor, and it is wrong. If you are not going to pay an Intern, you have an obligation to teach them what you do and how things work. Just having them to get your lunch or your coffee, our to clean up your spills is WRONG. 

You do not have to pay your Interns much, but even if you pay, you are obligated to teach them. That is what Internship is about. If you do not pay them, you have a larger obligation to teach them. This bullshit of having someone just to piss on needs to stop.

I have used interns in various places I worked, and I treat them, as I was treated when I was learning. How things are done, why we do things the way we do, and let them participate in that process , so they can learn.

I have no respect for people who do not value Internship and the people who want to learn.