Paid vs. Unpaid Internships

On March 1, I posted a story about how my internship turned into a job.  That story included mention of , one of our clients, which opened their doors that day.

Since then, the question of paid vs unpaid internships has gotten very heated following a crackdown by the US Labor Department regarding unpaid interns.

Our client wrote an open letter on the topic of paid vs unpaid internships where he took a stand saying that “our students are capable of making a free will choice,” when deciding the best way to further their careers and education.

Those comments were included in a column today by the Washington Post.

If you’re looking for an internship, an intern or just want to help a college student’s experiential education, check out

The complete text of the letter from Robin D. Richards is below:

Open Letter on Paid Versus Unpaid Internships from Chairman and CEO Robin D. Richards

Paid vs. Unpaid
That is not the question.

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Access to opportunity is for some almost an entitlement, but for the vast majority of Americans access to opportunity results from hard work and ingenuity.

The harder you work, the more ingenious you are, the luckier you get. The view that the government needs to regulate and protect our college students from the possibility of corporations seeking to take unfair advantage, I believe, is based on good intentions. However, in this case these intentions may be misplaced.

The American college student is sufficiently sophisticated, strategic and ambitious. Upward mobility is a uniquely American ideal. Anything is possible with education, preparation, hard work, ambition and access.

This issue of paid vs. unpaid is not an issue of fairness as some want you to believe, it is an issue of choice and free will. Statistics from 2007/20081 show that two out of three students who secure internships are offered full-time employment from the very company that gave them the internship. The marketplace has always been the great equalizer. If a company posts an internship that is unpaid and another posts one that is paid, the student will vote with their application. Our students are very capable of making a free will choice. If they believe an unpaid internship will result in a better path toward their chosen profession, then America’s best and America’s most ambitious will have a chance to craft and execute their competitive strategy towards getting a full time job after college.

The way many of the students from the 3,900+ colleges and universities not considered elite compete with students from the elite institutions is not on paper but in the actual working environment. They show their value live. We as a country do not need to constrain ingenuity and hard work and free choice with legal roadblocks. The approach of reducing options and choice will hurt the very group this well intended position is trying to protect.

At the end of the day, choice is the foundation to both our economy and our great democracy. Students today are well equipped to make this choice without our collective intervention.

Robin D. Richards
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

1 National Association of Colleges and Employers 2009 Experiential Education Survey


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