On January 21st, President Lee Myung-bak came up with a new internship policy to decrease the youth unemployment rate. About this new policy, Kim Seung-ah, a sophomore of English Language and Literature at Hanyang University, said, “I am interested in many programs that I can gain actual experience, but as so many criticisms are being made against many internship programs including those created by government, I am not sure if I should have a try or not.”
The media has pointed out that this new policy might increase the number of the temporary workers in the name of internship. Also, even though the new internship policy is a bit different than the formal internship in that it is designed to target graduate students instead of the undergraduates, there is worry that the formal problems that existed with the internships have not yet been solved.
When President Lee’s new intern policy came up, the problems with internships are again causing controversy. As an internship is a problem that is now being faced, the undergraduates need to prepare for the good and bad of the internship and use it more effectively.
Internship, Sweated Labor
If internship continues on with its problems that had always been pointed out, the internship is likely to be described as labor exploitation. Students who work as interns are selected by competitive examination. They are the ones that are guaranteed that they have the ability to do the work that the company is doing. However, in reality, all they do is simple work or services that anyone can do.
HYU’s survey on what the students wanted to earn most from internships showed that they desired experience and a chance to learn the jobs that they wanted to have in the future. Although the willingness of the applicants is neither special nor hard, it is true that this simple and righteous hope is mostly neglected.
In a survey conducted at HYU, 60 people out of 300 had done an internship. 60 percent of them were dissatisfied with the internship program because the experience there did not meet their expectations. What students wanted was the experience of their future job, not some simple untiring jobs that are of no benefit.
Although the main reason for students participating in an internship program is to gain some experience, they need to get justifiable wages for their work. However, most intern programs result in pay that is lower than part time jobs. It bothers the student because interns are not allowed to have second jobs. Even though earning money was not the actual purpose, students deserve to be paid as fairly for their work.
Waste of Ability
There were students who actually faced some irrationality when working as interns. They found the work unrelated to the field they expected and felt the neglect of the formal workers as the biggest source of displeasure.
Stella Ahn, who is attending a university in Virginia, USA, had done an internship program at C Advertisement Company. She had great expectation, but this internship program had discouraged her. She said, “I was really looking forward to the program, because the work they suggested was related to the job I wanted to have in the future. However, when I actually worked there, all I did was answer phone calls and buy some snacks for the formal full-time workers.” She was disappointed that she could not experience some actual works that she would have in the future. She also said that, “Even though they suggested low payment, I wanted to work to gain some experience. However, they did not permit me to gain any experience.”
Another student, Park Hee-mok, the senior student of Asia Pacific University, had done an internship program at a bank. He was interested in a job related to monetary circulation, so he thought this internship program would be very useful.
However, he said, “All I did there was to make people line up. For more than a month, all I did was stand in front of the door, say ‘Hi’, and show people where they should stand in line.”
Most of the students who apply for internship programs are looking forward and eager to have a chance to experience the actual work that they will do in the future. However, many organizations seem not to meet the needs of the students.
Improvement of Ability
On the other hand, there were still also many students who found the internship program very beneficial. Many people agreed that being neglected by the older workers and low pay were problems, but they were outweighed by the invaluable experience they gained there.
“I worked at Samsung Electronics. There was some neglect and the wage was four thousand won per hour. Even though it is true that being disregarded by other employees and the unreasonably low wage exist, it really gave me the actual experience,” Said Park Hyun Soon, a senior student of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Seoul National University. He added that, “I was really satisfied, because I had learned so many things that I couldn’t learn at school. Also, during the short time I worked there, the group image of Samsung improved a lot.”
Park Hyun-soon really seemed to regard the experience and practice he had earned from the internship and also gained a good image of the place. However, the problems that are always argued seem hard to be ignore.
There was another student intern who was satisfied with the internship. Cho Eun Chung, the sophomore student of Ewha woman’s university, had participated in an internship program at Chosunilbo. She said, “I did not care about the pay, if I could get the experience and so I did.” She did not earn a high salary for her job, but she gained some experience with the actual job that she wanted to have.
She said, “As my major is Mass Media and Communication and my dream is to become a journalist, experience working at such a big newspaper company was very helpful.” She also said that the company gave her many chances that they were not obligated to. “They even let me work as an intern journalist, even though that was not what I was promised to do.”
How to Make It Fruitful
Even though the idea of intern can be separated into two, positive and negative, what they have said overlapps. Students who had worked as interns keep saying is that what they want the most is the experience. The experience that can give the interns a chance to learn specifically about the job and have some idea about the future job is all they want.
Many people identified low pay as a problem, but more people thought that low wage would not matter if they could gain the experience and meet people who can help them in the future. So why do organizations neglect these smallest hopes of the interns?
One of the officials responsible for internship program in Korea’s large enterprise said, “It is hard for us to let interns work in official place, because it is hard to teach all of them how to work. Also, if they make mistake in the actual place, who would take the responsibility?”
This was understandable, but did not make sense. If these are the reasons for them to make the interns work simple jobs that anyone can do, they should not have made such a program. If they do such thing, it seems clear that they are having interns for mere cheap workers.
To solve the problems of the intern, it is not hard. Many students are willing to do internships even without the great pay, so all an organization has to do is provide the students with the fair opportunity they have promised to give. The students will have to work hard and responsibly, so they will not make the organization’s loss.
As the new policy came up, and is being criticized, more people are taking an interest in the side effects of the internship program. The criticisms are always followed by the interest, and it is always best if it ends in improvement.
Also, apart from the criticisms of the program or policy itself, students need to look back on themselves to be realistic. As the policy develops, more and more internship programs are being offered. These days when students do not actually see the helpfulness in the internship program, they all do it for one more line on their resume. However, as the number of internship offers increases, internships become something that anyone can have on his or her resume. . Therefore, with a critical eye toward internships and effort toward finding ways to improve, students need to have critical attitudes towards them and try to decide what would help them, instead of what everyone else is doing.