I majored in finance while was in college (at University of Hawaii) and contemplated an internship between my junior and senior year of college. Instead, I took advantage of an offer from a friend of mine who lives in Japan to study Japanese for the summer and thus, I haven’t personally participated in a internship from the intern side, but have created a internship program for prior employers. The article in the Sunday, April 4th print edition of The Oregonian mentions many employers are creating more intern opportunities and a couple of colleagues are curious about using an intern program to gain experience and have asked me if there are any rules or laws about internships. This sparked some curiosity and I did a little research.
First, to review an internship is a program within an organization in which college students (typically) and career changers lend their talents to companies in return for an opportunity to develop business skills, learn about a new industry, and gain exposure to the work environment. Internship programs are set up as either non-compensated or compensated internships. Whether paid or unpaid, an internship position is often quite beneficial to the student who participates, for he or she receives “real world” business experience and an early opportunity to impress potential employers. Employers also benefit from internship programs by obtaining the services of skilled personnel for modest cost and by being exposed to new ideas and perspectives.
However, it becomes a little trickier for employers who recruit people for non-paying internships. In this situation, the internship program MUST be more beneficial to the intern than the employee. Even such duties as opening mail or replying to requests which arrived via the internet can trip the “suffer or permit to work” the person to work threshold that is written into Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA)….especially if there are no or minimal other duties. This “suffer and permit” is actually written into many laws and comes from the Common Law tenants of the early 16th century. Basically, it means if the duties & tasks assigned to an intern are substantially the same as a paid worker and employer does not stop the individual from doing it (i.e. permits them to do it). “suffer the intern to perform work for you. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) has a great article, with a 6-point test which should clarify for employees whether they internship program can be configured as non-paying internship program.
Becoming an intern is a great way for both students and experienced people to learn or refresh new skills in a industry they might want to pursue. I found a pretty good website in which one can learn of internship opportunities in Oregon at: www.oregonintern.com