You Create More Diversity When You Pay Your Interns

By Catherine Lang-Cline

We are all familiar with internships. Many of us had them or at least knew about them in school. Companies take on interns for a wide variety of reasons and they are typically all good reasons. You are offering a potential kick-start to their career but you may not be getting a wide range of candidates because, for some, money really matters.

Those people are like me, I could not take advantage of intern opportunities because while I needed the experience, I could not work for free because I needed the money to pay for school. Simply put, waiting tables paid, internships in my chosen profession did not. Having this unfortunate choice can prove to be a huge disadvantage on graduation day.

In all fairness, the definition of an internship (according to Google) “is a position of a student or trainee who works in an organization, sometimes without pay, in order to gain work experience or satisfy requirements for a qualification.”

Sometimes without pay. 

Yes, no pay does help your company when you think you don’t have the dollars to add staff and it does help the student gain experience but may I suggest a middle-ground based on my own experience? As a small-business owner, we find the money to pay our interns, and if we can do it, so can you. I completely understand the “we can’t possibly add another person…” internal dialogue.  Set that aside and think about the numbers. Think about minimum wage, think about part-time, think about the projects that you have that you would gladly pay someone to get done. Think about how you could free up some of your time and be doing work that generates money.

Quick math: $15 for 5 hours, 3 days a week = $225, or, $15 for 6 hours, 2 days a week = $180.

How about $10 for 5 hours, 3 days a week =  $150? You know your tasks, you know your budget, you know that you can make it work. It can be a small price for some added free time for you.

Also, paying your interns can offer you a wider range of candidates. Offering a paid internship opens the door for more diversity within your team, too. You could be helping someone with a disadvantaged background and in essence, giving them an opportunity to change their life. You could add the self-starter at the community college, the person with the stellar work ethic that knows hard work is how to advance, or simply the one person that is looking for a break. The best part is, they could potentially do an amazing job and you will want to hire them as soon as they graduate.

Not every student lives at home or has a full ride in college. Paid internships bring forward candidates that need a job and are hungry for experience. These opportunities can be game-changers for them. You have the power to change the game. And it is simply the right thing to do.