As competition for top technical talent heats up, savvy hiring managers and CIOs are beefing up their internship programs to ensure they build strong relationships with the next generation of IT talent. One surefire way to attract the brightest new minds: Pay them well.
Coming from a journalism background, I find paid internships a novel concept. For two summers and one semester, I slaved at unpaid jobs, first for the now-defunct Eastern Airlines' inflight magazine, then Working Woman, and finally, Rolling Stone, where I researched articles, wrote, and -- in Rolling Stones' case -- responded to many letters from inmates. The experiences were irreplaceable, looked great on my resume, and I wouldn't have traded them for any amount of cash. But it looks as though the days of unpaid internships could be drawing to a close.
This week, a federal judge in New York ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated minimum wage and overtime laws when it didn't pay interns who worked on production of the 2010 movie, Black Swan. (The company, a division of 20th Century Fox, plans to appeal.) The decision by US District Judge William Pauley III could make some companies rethink their unpaid internship policies. There are about 1 million unpaid internships in the United States annually, Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, told the Associated Press. That number grew when the economy fell -- and Eisenbrey blamed businesses for exploiting young workers and driving down salaries.
Tech biz gets A in internships
Unlike some industries that have a legacy of hiring unpaid interns, the technology business seems to value these typically younger workers. Long before Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn discovered the wonders of Google in The Internship, tech companies paid interns -- and paid them well -- for their positions.
Google interns make an average of $5,800 monthly; specialized software engineer interns can earn up to $6,700 per month, wrote Katie Lobosco, a paid intern at CNN Money. Software engineer interns at Amazon and Microsoft reap a monthly sum of more than $5,500, while research interns at Microsoft can earn $7,000, according to Glassdoor. Other companies pay interns by the hour, with salaries ranging from about $15 to $40, Glassdoor reported.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) offers guidance on intern pay, recommending that businesses pay seniors more than juniors, and so on. NACE suggests companies pay seniors $17.57 per hour, while freshmen should earn $13.91.
Intern Pay: The High Price of Temporary Help
It's apparent what interns get out of these programs. But why do companies benefit from creating internships? They often last only as long as a summer or semester, require a round of training each time a new intern comes aboard, and can demand follow-up paperwork with every student and school.
In addition to forging relationships with potential employees, IT interns are often entrenched in emerging technologies and bring a new zeal and perspective to processes and systems. Educated in a collaboration-focused world, they can be very team focused and easy to integrate into your department's staff, employment, and education, experts say. Once trained, interns also liberate your full-time staff to pursue other tasks, perhaps projects they've been unable to focus on because they've been pulled in too many other directions.
Does your company have IT internships? Did you ever intern? Although I worked three jobs along with those unpaid internships, spending time among professional writers and editors gave me a peek into the world I wanted to enter, a view that proved invaluable when I plunged into the full-time workforce.
— Alison Diana , ThinkerNet Editor, Internet Evolution