As you know, the legal and ethical issues surrounding unpaid internships have been highly debated in recent months. With your input, NACE is addressing this issue. I am happy to share with you NACE’s Position Statement on Unpaid Internships. I will also highlight some of the work we have done surrounding this issue, and detail the information and resources we will provide to you in the near future.
June 30, 2010
One of our key goals while developing a position statement was to engage our members in the process. In May, we conducted a national survey of employer and college members to gain insight into their internship practices and thoughts on unpaid internships. Furthermore, we held a roundtable on the topic during the NACE 2010 Annual Conference earlier this month.
Our position statement is framed by the following principles, beliefs, and assumptions:
- Internships provide unique and valuable experiences for students both academically and in professional career preparation.
- The term “internship” encompasses many different program models (i.e. paid and unpaid; full time and part time; of varying length; as a required part of an academic curriculum or as a course option; for academic credit or no credit). The broad use of this term to cover diverse circumstances makes it difficult to apply common and consistent standards, guidelines, and applicable policies.
- Internships exist or can exist in literally every kind of business, industry, organization, and sector—both public and private.
- What constitutes an internship is determined in the final analysis by the student’s college or university and the employer.
- Internship programs should ideally involve a close partnership between the university, the participating student, and the employer in which all accrue some form of benefit.
- The federal and state governments have significant roles in providing and enforcing laws and guidelines to protect the interests of both employers and employees in the workplace.
- Unpaid internships in the not-for-profit sector reflect the fiscal realities and limitations for organizations in that sector and are acknowledged accordingly in current Department of Labor guidelines and enforcement practices.
- All interns, regardless of their compensation, should enjoy similar basic protections in the work setting consistent with all laws, ethical considerations, and sound business practices.
Based on the above principles, beliefs, and assumptions, and the information supplied by our members, NACE’s position statement on the issue of unpaid internships is:
“The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), representing more than 3,000 higher education institutions and employing organizations, recognizes the enormous value of internship programs to individual student participants and both the higher education and employer communities. We believe that the U.S Department of Labor criteria for assessing whether internships in the for-profit sector may be unpaid must be reviewed and further clarified to ensure they account for the incredible diversity of students, higher education institutions, and employing organizations involved in such programs. Further, all interns, regardless of their compensation, should enjoy similar, basic protections in the work setting consistent with all laws, ethical considerations, and sound business practices.”
Going forward, NACE will provide you with the latest information and resources, and keep you apprised of developments concerning unpaid internships. A virtual seminar on the topic is planned for July 28 (details to come). In addition, NACE legal advisers are developing an FAQ document to assist members in their work with interns and internships; we expect to release this resource shortly, and will notify you when it is available.
I appreciate the feedback we received from you, our members, as a result of our survey on the issue. Your input is guiding our response to this important issue. Thank you for your participation.
2009-10 NACE President
Vice President, Human Resources & Administration
The Field Museum