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Interns--cheap tech labor?

Many small tech companies are using interns as cheap labor in place of more expensive employees. It, in fact, borders on illegal hiring practices when you see how it is done.

In response to the July 4 article by Lisa M. Bowman, "Are internships the new tech prize?":

Thanks for the informative article. You may be surprised to know that many small tech companies are using interns as cheap labor in place of more expensive employees. It, in fact, borders on illegal hiring practices when you see how it is done.

For much of the year, these companies try to finish work for which they do not have the proper headcount. Then, starting in the second quarter, they hire as many interns as there are desks at which to put them. Some of the interns have schooling for what they are hired, but the majority do not. This has happened at two of my former jobs, and it happens where I work now.

My company employs 30 people. During the summer, we have at least 40 people, and we have 45 right now. (That's 15 interns, or one for every two full-time employees. From my experience, it is normal to have 15 interns in a 300-person company.)

We hire interns for the summer and make them do regular tasks. Therefore, during the summer months, we have the highest productivity and get the most work done. By the time September rolls around, we go back to planning what we will do without the additional headcount and what we will do with the army of interns that we'll get the following year.

What bothers me is that the company plans for the interns as if they are regular, full-time employees. This includes recommending that they work late or that they work on weekends without pay as do the rest of us salaried folk. And since the interns are hot for a job, they usually end up working extra hours that I do not think they realize are truly optional for interns. Even worse, we never otherwise hire for those jobs, and we get constantly changing results from interns' work.

I bet you would find that, in the current economic state, many small companies are taking advantage of interns as cheap labor.

Al Gidden
Austin, Texas