Archive for April, 2010

Are unpaid internships illegal?

Apr. 30th 2010

Internships have been a valuable option for college students hoping for a head start on their career between semesters. But as the recession continues, companies have turned to unpaid internships as a way of saving money during these hard economic times. Greedy Boss

“It can be very tempting if you’re laying off employees to bring in help and call it in an internship,” says John Kniering, the director of the University of Hartford Career Services department.

There has been much debate as to whether these unpaid internships are in fact legal, with states such as Oregon and California fining employers because they feel that unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws. Others disagree, claiming that unpaid internships are a “huge success.”

The Department of Labor has outlined six federal legal criteria that must be met for an unpaid internship:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Although there is no official record of the number of unpaid internships, it is hard to keep track of companies who violate these laws. Some believe it is because student interns are too afraid to complain as it may hamper their future career. Moreover, students may feel trapped into working as an unpaid intern because many programs and future employers view work experience as extremely valuable.

Ross Eisenbrey, the vice president of The Economic Policy Institute states:

“In the private sector, most of the unpaid internships are illegal because most don’t involve a structured environment, and many don’t provide any advantage to the students. They don’t get paid for the work they are doing when, in many cases, they ought to be paid at least minimum wage. It’s something that blocks career opportunities for low-income students whose families can’t afford to send them off for three months without being paid. If the family is struggling, they can’t put them in such an internship, and it’s increasingly the case that industries like fashion and publishing pretty much require new hires to have done an internship.”

Krissi Geary-Boehm, coordinator of internships and placement for the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, believes that a paid internship could actually be worse than an unpaid internship. She states that if paid interns are being treated as full-time employees, then they should make more than minimum wage.

“I think what will eventually happen is that unpaid internships will have to be for college credit, and that’s the way it should be. An internship is supposed to be an educational experience, not a summer job. And that’s the problem; some of these internships are treated as entry-level jobs.”

Something to blog about

Bloggers across the nation are giving their two cents on how they feel about unpaid internships. (There is even a blog which provides updates and resources on the issue, titled “The Unfair Internships“).

  • Blogger Fruzsina Eordogh wrote on “My initial reaction to the April 2 New York Times piece “The Unpaid Intern, Illegal or Not” was one of confusion. I have done a number of unpaid internships, and never in my right mind believed them to be illegal — even if at the time I was doing menial tasks… Almost everyone I know has had an unpaid internship at some point in their college life — some majors practically require it — and most of the experiences could qualify as “illegal” because they were not strictly “educational.” Granted, these folks interned at music, media, and film companies, industries known to be “abusive” of their interns. One magazine I worked for long ago used interns like cleaning ladies for the higher-up’s apartments or had them perform other degrading personal tasks in the style of “The Devil Wears Prada.”
  • The Editorial Board of The Western Front writes: “The Editorial Board believes it’s time for departments to analyze whether they should continue to require internships. If paid internship opportunities in certain fields are declining, then those departments should not require students to complete an internship. When students take unpaid internships for credit, they are essentially paying to work.”
  • blogger Scott Bourne writes: “The bottom line is simple. Because most states have mis-managed their finances, they are trying every trick in the book to get some new revenue. If they can force you to pay minimum wage, then they can tax you and the intern. If you’re planning on hiring an intern this year, be sure to check your local, regional and state jurisdictions as well as federal hour/wage laws to make sure you’re in compliance. Part of going pro is accepting the responsibility that comes with running a real business. You’re always better off when you are in full compliance with all laws and regulations.”
  • Steven Kent, a writer on, writes about his experiences of working two unpaid internships: “Finally, my parting advice to all you unpaid interns is this: just accept the uncertainty of your position for now. There’s a certain serene confidence you gain when you simply make up your mind that you’re going to spend a few lean months in the service of something greater. You might not turn your internship into a full-time position upon graduation, no matter how hard you work, and you probably won’t fall into fabulous wealth along the way, either. But from my own experiences, I know you can proceed with this knowledge at least: if you can make it as an unpaid intern with a bit of grace, you’re ready for anything.”
Posted by alexis | in Career | No Comments »

After failure with Kindle, universities try again with iPad

Apr. 26th 2010

After the Kindle didn’t measure up to student standards, Reed College and others will try their test again with the iPad.

In the fall of 2009, Reed and seven other colleges and universities were chosen by Amazon to take part in a study on the use of the Kindle in the classroom. The other schools were Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Pace University, Princeton University, the University of Washington, and
Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.

The study at Reed involved 43 students in three upper-level undergraduate courses.

Students noted a number of problems with the devices, including the inability to obtain all of the texts for the device, loss of functionality for things like highlighting and annotating, low screen resolution and the inability to display complex graphics and charts, and difficulty in locating files saved on the device.

In addition, “There has been a great deal of discussion, especially following the announcement of the Apple iPad, about the long-term viability of a device designed primarily for a single function: reading text,” the report concluded. “Tablets and other multi-function devices that can be used for reading text as well as for web browsing, email, word processing and countless other functions would seem to have a clear advantage.”

Overall, the Kindle experiment was deemed unsuccessful, and long-term use of the device seemed unlikely.

Trying again

Some of the schools involved in the Kindle study have decided to recreate the study with the iPad.

Many universities have already begun giving away free iPads to students for use in the classroom. The University of Maryland also recently announced its intention to give iPads to incoming freshmen as part of its ongoing mobility initiative , and N.C. State University just purchased 30 iPads to lend to students for four-hour study periods.

Is it necessary?

The push to introduce technology in the classroom — even in the face of one failed study — begs the question as to why officials are so keen to have the high-tech gadgets. They certainly won’t save the university money — students will reap the saving on fewer textbook purchases.

If the end goal is to facilitate learning, shouldn’t the medium that offers the most advantages be the one favored? Through study after study, technological devices don’t hold up to print books in their ease of use for study: Books are easier to thumb through, to take notes, to highlight — whatever methods are easiest for students to earmark and retain information.

Electronic devices are greener, and students don’t have to lug around cumbersome books. The potential for cost savings seems great when eliminating the purchase of so many pricey textbooks, but students still have to invest in expensive technology and software. And there hasn’t yet been a standard device established for classrooms, meaning that students may have to buy multiple devices to access all the textbooks they need.

Universities may be attracted to the devices because they help raise the profile of the schools. It shows that they are on the cutting edge of learning and have the resources to give their students the best. But, at the end of the day, shouldn’t “the best” equal whatever will help students learn the way that is best for them — and that may just be the tried and true books that have educated students for hundreds of years.

Posted by maria magher | in Education, Technology | No Comments »

Technology gives rise to cheating

Apr. 11th 2010

With the introduction of more and more technology into the classroom — from computers to iPods and now the iPad — students have more tools to enhance their educational experience and take learning to a new level with opportunities to process concepts in a variety of ways. But they also have more opportunities to bend the rules and obtain answers dishonestly.

Cheating has always been a problem in one form or another through every level of education. But the days of writing cheat sheets on the palm of the hand or looking over the shoulder of a fellow test taker seem quaint and antiquated.

Options for today’s cheaters abound: From pre-programmed equations on graphic calculators to recorded answers and notes on iPods and iPhones to text messages of answers to test questions or math problems.

YouTube has become a billboard for sharing ideas about how to cheat on exams, including a detailed Another report finds that even professors have become complicit in the cheating, looking the other way when they know that homework has been plagiarized or the answers have been obtained unethically.

The problem in some cases, especially with math or science homework, is that the cheating becomes almost impossible to detect. Students can not only find the answers, but they can also find the detailed methods by which to arrive at the answers — thereby being able to “show” their work, making it appear as their own.

The use of technology also presents several ethical gray areas. Is it technically cheating if a student pre-programs a graphing calculator with an equation? After all, won’t useful devices and shortcuts like these be used in the professional environment? Also, many students are not even aware of their dubious nature of their actions when they do things like cut and paste information, sometimes slightly modifying the content. It is often a case of misunderstanding the need to identify sources or of not knowing how to properly construct research.

Solutions to the problem

Many schools already have policies that bar cell phones and other technology in the classroom, but those policies are often ignored or subverted. And newer technologies — such as tiny bluetooth ear pieces — make subverting those rules ever easier.

The answer lies in more vigilance, both for parents and for professors. Parental monitoring may be easier for those with underage children who still live at home — allowing parents to monitor their electronic devices for any inappropriate content. That won’t be as easy for those with college students living away from home and in the dorms. But discussions about the value of ethical behavior and the proper use of technology early and often will help inhibit those behaviors later in life.

Professors have multiple resources available to them to help determine whether cheating has occurred. These can range from sites that can cross-check content for any plagiarized work to using online monitoring systems for test-taking or homework submission that can perform tasks such as logging the time it takes to submit a math solution (so if it takes the student a small amount of time to perform each task, it is a strong indicator of digital assistance or some other form of cheating).

Eliminating electronic devices or materials of any kind in a test-taking environment can also discourage cheating. Re-designing tests or assignments to require creative problem-solving or complex responses can also inhibit the ability to use outside sources to arrive at solutions.

Technology provides many useful tools that can be used to enhance learning — it shouldn’t be used to find a shortcut to it.

Posted by maria magher | in Education, Technology | 3 Comments »

Job outlook for 2010 graduates

Apr. 6th 2010

The struggling job market has sent many back to school to get a more advanced degree, to get started on a new career, or to get specialized skills training. But will the job market be any better for them when they finish their degrees?

Job prospects for 2010 graduates are still grim, though forecasts have improved over last year and even over the last few months. Perhaps the forward momentum will continue and graduates may find an even more improved job market by June?

A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers showed that hiring of recent graduates rose more than 10 percent from January to February. Of the companies surveyed, 27 percent said they planned to increase hiring this year, and 26 percent said they planned fewer hires.

Already, almost 22 percent of the class of 2010 have jobs secured after graduation.

Though graduates can’t expect to have their pick of top-paying jobs, the outlook is an improvement over last year, and has even surpassed estimates of a few months ago.

Following demand

An English degree probably won’t get you far in the current market. Though it will appeal to employers’ need for workers who can translate skills for multiple job demands and who can adapt to a variety of situations in a changing economy.

However, certain fields are primed to grow more than others. Graduates can expect to find more demand in the fields of health care, especially for nurses and social workers; agriculture and food production; government; and professional and scientific services.

Top 10 jobs according to staffing firm Robert Half will be:

Tax accountant
Compliance director
Credit manager/supervisor
Senior financial analyst
Network administrator
Information systems security manager
Systems engineer
Medical record clerk
Customer service representative
Executive assistant

Distinguishing yourself

Though there will be more opportunities, the job market will still be tight and graduates will still need to maintain a competitive edge.

  • Define your goals and build towards them through your work experience and training
  • Highlight your specific, results-oriented accomplishments, either through your educational experience or in a work setting.
  • Build professional contacts and work relationships through networking.
  • Use extracurricular activities or hobbies to show that you have a wide range of skills and are adaptable.

Of course, there are a basic set of skills and characteristics that all employers will look for in hiring candidates.

Prospective employees that will be attractive candidates will have the following qualities:

  • Takes initiative and is self-motivated
  • Ability to network and sustain relationships
  • Critical thinker able to manage a variety of information
  • Effective and persuasive communicator
  • Ability to manage projects and people
  • Good leader and team player
  • Innovative and creative thinker

The best advice in a tight job market is the same advice in any job market: Network, network, network. Working internships, freelance jobs and unpaid or temporary positions will give you an introduction to the company and a chance to make a name for yourself. When positions do open, you’ll be among the first to know and to be considered. Networking with other professionals in your field will also give you the inside scoop on when jobs open, who to contact and how to set yourself apart from the other applicants. Who you know could even get you the interview.

Posted by maria magher | in Career, Degrees | No Comments »