Maybe your clients are most interested in hiring temporary workers. Maybe some of them want interns. What’s the difference?
For many businesses, the only difference between an intern and a temp has been that the intern is still attending school. For others – and I’m only being partially cynical – it’s that an intern can do the same job as a temporary worker, but you don’t have to pay an intern.
Is this right?
Probably not. The New York Times last year published an article covering the efforts of the federal Department of Labor to crack down on employers using the “intern” mantle to get free labor.
Yet it’s actually pretty surprising to look at the current legal criteria the Department of Labor was (and is) using. The criteria include:
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the student.
- The employer provides the training and derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern. Occasionally, the operations may actually be impeded.
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time in the internship.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), more than half of U.S. internships in 2011 were paid, and more than half of employers turned their interns into full-time employees.
Even so, NACE says that it’s actually the second point in the above DOL criteria that causes the most trouble. Why would a business hire an intern if the hire would slow them down?
Last November, NACE recommended that the DOL review its criteria under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regarding unpaid internships.
That hasn’t happened yet. But in late July, NACE approved a position statement that should keep the ball rolling. The statement includes a formal definition of an intern.
This is it:
“A form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.”
This definition is nice, but it certainly doesn’t answer the question. What’s the difference between a temp and an intern?
So, in the statement, NACE also includes its own set of criteria that must all be met:
- The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work that a regular employee would routinely perform.
- The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings.
- The experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications.
- There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework.
- There is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience.
- There is routine feedback by the experienced supervisor.
- There are resources, equipment and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.
Have you offered paid internships as part of your staffing operation? What has been your experience?