VanAntwerp Attorneys, LLP
Phone: 606-618-0698

The mutual benefits of summer internships

With summer approaching, colleges are closing out their academic years. For a few months, students have much needed time off. While fun in the sun is tempting for many, some are looking to their future career prospects.

Unpaid internships were never meant to line the pockets of college students. However, hands-on exposure and experience does provide real work experience and potentially a network of contacts for future employment prospects.

Development of unpaid internship programs and related polices requires employers to comply with federal, state and local laws. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) developed a six-factor test to help employers both understand and meet the criteria for unpaid internships.

However, many claim that the DOL guidelines do not reflect the 21st century workplace.

The 2nd and 11th U.S. circuit courts of appeals have chosen to observe what they call a primary beneficiary test. Where work experience was once solely for an intern's future benefit under DOL rules, companies can now share the advantages of the association. The only qualification being that the intern must still be the primary beneficiary.

Additional factors in their test include:

  • Both intern and employer understand that there is no expectation of compensation, nor a guaranteed job
  • Training is similar to what is given in an educational environment
  • The program is tied to the intern's formal education through integrated coursework or academic credit
  • The internship is aligned with the academic calendar
  • Work provides significant educational benefits and complements, but does not displace the work of paid employees

Perhaps the most important factor for internship is the need for a strong educational component. Businesses must go far beyond a loose association that comes from an alumnus working for the company. Programs must be formalized through discussions with and approval by the schools.

Successfully looking to the future is not something employers should take lightly. Doing things right the first time can help them secure future talent that could significantly benefit their operations in the future.

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