Experience doesn’t put food on the table

By Brittany Tankersley | Photo Editor

Young people should not have to choose between having food on the table and having job experience. Unpaid internships are not only unethical but also exploitative of entry-level workers whose time and effort should not be comparable with gaining experience.

Internships are often seen as a gateway into the workforce, because who will hire you without experience? However, many young adults do not have the financial support of their families to rely on. Should these workers have to worry about sacrificing financial stability to gain experience that might not even guarantee them a paid job at the end of it?

It is a privilege to freely give up your time and effort in exchange for experience, to not be utterly consumed by a financial burden and instead focus on climbing the ladder. It is another way America lacks infrastructure to not only support but also prevent poverty. If you can never accept an unpaid internship because of financial issues, how can you ever move to a higher economic level? You are forced to accept low-paying jobs forever — stuck cyclically without a way to escape.

Likewise, internships claim to offer incalculable experience entry-level workers should be grateful for, but according to the New York Times, most often that is not the case.

“Apologists for the unpaid internship argue that it offers valuable experience,” the New York Times reported. “But internships often involve mindless or menial work. In 2010, the Economic Policy Institute reviewed a guidebook of ‘top’ business internships and found many of them provided ‘no explicit academic or training component,’ despite Labor Department requirements.”

What a slap in the face it is to be denied a full-time position over your inability to financially support yourself in an unpaid position, just to learn the invaluable experience they claim to offer is fetching coffee.

Also, why do we accept experience in exchange for work when you are still learning and gaining knowledge throughout any full-time position? An article by Psychology Today puts it best.

“Imagine if your employer told you, ‘We are going to skip this week’s paycheck because you learned new skills at work this week. We feel certain this will help your career tremendously in a few years,'” Psychology Today reads. “Would you find this acceptable? Would this help you put food on your table? If it’s not acceptable to behave this way with a full-time employee or a gig worker, why is it fair to treat an intern this way?”

Everyone is deserving of the ability to provide for themselves and their families while improving their resume. It is completely unethical to deprive young adults of that simply because you find them unworthy of compensation. Call it what it is: exploitation.