Young Upstarts

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Should A Small Business Take On Unpaid Interns?

by Arran James Stewart, co-owner of Job.com

It’s a far more strategic question than you may first think and with unpaid internships hitting the headlines again, it may spark your mind as an entrepreneurial small business to take on a young new member for no charge to some extra helping hands within the business.

Well think again.  If you haven’t taken the time, you should read the latest rules around unpaid internships and it may make you think again about putting that sort of financial strain and distraction on a small business such as your own.  There are new rules now that are designed to protect everyone from entering into a working relationship where either party may feel mis-sold or exploited during the time of the internship.

For example, you cannot take on an intern to replace or replicate the role of a paid worker within you business.  You must provide the training and experience around the academic discipline the intern is currently studying, you must make all tasks related to this clear from the beginning and effectively engage in activities that aren’t productive for the business, but enriching academically, training and experience wise for the intern.

So, when you think about it, what is the cost for attracting the intern, preparing enriching tasks for them to learn from, having paid members of staff monitor, train, and report of their tasks, what if the intern decides not to become a long-term employee where you could claw back your invested time and capital into them?

It’s actually quite an investment of time and energy bringing unpaid interns on and for a small business (depending on your size) could be a real headache and distraction to a growing company, where capital and focus on growth is key.

Now I’m not looking to be a party pooper here or discourage anyone from helping enrich and educate the future labor force, I am totally pro interns.  However, I want to make sure that small businesses truly understand what they are getting into and the costs associated with having free labor (unproductive labor).

Before the new rules on unpaid interns was released, I genuinely believe many small businesses used this as an opportunity for both parties (company and intern) to gain, but now with these extra rules in place to protect interns from the small few who did abuse this situation, I think it has changed the landscape entirely for everyone and small businesses should make more calculated decisions before they decide into entering the unpaid internship arena.

My further advice would be this to any small business considering an unpaid internship in their business:  if you are passionate about up-skilling tomorrows labor force at your own expense, do the internship.  If you have the resources and spare staff to provide a proper learning experience, do the internship.  If you are not entering into this with any form of productivity gain in mind, do the internship.  Finally, if you have a paid position that could form out of the internship for the candidate, do the internship.

The reality is, internships (despite being unpaid), require real thought, planning, monitoring, enrichment, and training.  You want to find an intern who is not only committed to their academic discipline, but who is looking for a long-term future in your organization. No company should view interns as a source of free or cheap labor, but rather as an investment in your company and in the future of your industry.

 

Arran James Stewart is the co-owner of blockchain recruitment platform Job.com. Arran helped develop one of the world’s first multi-post to media buy talent attraction portals, and also helped reinvent the way job content found candidates through utilizing matching technology against job aggregation. Arran is currently launching the first blockchain recruitment platform with Job.com – which aims to be the most secure, efficient, and transparent hiring process ever.

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