Springtern: springboarding or stringing along young interns’ careers?

By Jenna Jacobson & Leslie Regan Shade in Journal of Education and Work 31(3) (published July 2018)

Springtern: springboarding or stringing along young interns' careers?

Young people are repeatedly promised that internships will pave the way to the career of their dreams by providing the ‘hands-on experience’ necessary to differentiate themselves in a fierce job market. However, in many industries, internships – and increasingly unpaid internships – have become the obligatory norm. Young people quickly learn that the internship is not an opportunity, but rather a ‘necessary evil’ that, for many, strings them along in the hope that it may lead to a less precarious paid opportunity.

In this article, the authors carried out 12 in-depth interviews with young female interns in the creative industries based in Toronto and New York City. The participants recognise that in the current economic climate, they need to ‘pay their dues’; however, they often enter into a system of sequential – or string – internships, and become, what the authors label, a stringtern.

The authors go on to develop a typology of internships including (1) paid/underpaid/unpaid, (2) academic credit/not-for-credit, (3) for-profit/non-profit, (4) full-time/part-time and (5) on-site/off-site to develop a common language to critically analyse the culture of internships. The typology aims to provide a more nuanced way to approach the complexity of unpaid internships and the transition from education to the workforce. Furthermore, three interrelated implications of the culture of internships are identified: internship as a free trial, internship as conveyor-belt labour and internship as displacing paid employment.

Read the article here.