Internship: Privilege or scam?

Internship: A nicer word for cheap labour.

Internship is a compulsory "module" in most tertiary courses. The allowance was miserable so I was fortunate that I interned at a government-linked company 5 bus stops away from my home otherwise my entire allowance might be blown on the cost of commuting. There were 3 other interns. Each of us were allocated a desk. I proposed my own project and did my own thing without much supervision.

What do interns complain about? That the work is boring, they don't have much to do, they don't learn anything related to their course specialisation because they are made to do simple tasks like photocopying documents. Before interns complain about the small allowance, they should consider whether they are value-for-money to the company at all. To be honest, I don't think the company got any value out of me. If I ran the company, I won't have even hired myself to do what I did even though the allowance was small.

I suppose they hire interns as part of their service to the community and also hopefully to attract people to join them in the future. I consider it a privilege to intern there only if I consider that it was compulsory, I didn't have to do much there, the number of companies seeking interns were limited (if you don't get picked by those companies, you'll have to find and beg some company to take you in otherwise you can't graduate), it was one of the so-called better companies (big, public-listed companies were considered to be better than small, private ones), and it was #1 on my application form.

I did learn a few things important things, e.g. some employees clock in at 9am and then spend the next 1 hour having breakfast, engineers earn pathetic salaries compared to salesmen, if engineers don't want to become obsolete they need to constantly upgrade their skills (especially software engineers) and get promoted to project manager, government and government-linked companies pay good salaries only to scholars.

But I wish interning wasn't compulsory because:
1. I could have learnt all those things and more while working in a real job with a real salary,
2. Tertiary institutions "sell" internship as relevant job experience but it really isn't in the real world unless it's an internship with an extremely prestigious organisation, (this applies also to internship instead of getting a job after graduation - you mean nobody wants to hire you for anything more than an allowance?)
3. While I was interning, I still had to pay my school fees,
4. the opportunity cost of interning is high. Taking the average salary of $3,000 per month for a fresh graduate less the allowance $500 multiplied by 6 months of internship plus 1 semester's school fees = $20,000 !!! And this amount doesn't even include the potential pay rise I might get from the "relevant working experience" in a real job!

It's a scam, it's a scam, it's a scam!!!


Anonymous said...

Ha! Tell me about it.... I was a salesguy selling jewellery in retail. What the hell? I don't know what I learned because nobody actually came into the store, considering it is a high-end product. Maybe I learned what a $1000 Singapore dollar note looked like...

Yu-Kym said...

What were you studying?

David said...


Interships are disappearing over here.

Some bureucrat in Washington found out many internships pay nothing or little, sounds familiar yes.

I worked an internship that actually paid decent wages, and that lead to my current full time work.

A new problem develops, how will students gain any type of work experience now.

How is this being handled in SG?


Our life is full of brokenness - broken relationships, broken
promises, broken expectations. How can we live with that brokenness without becoming bitter and resentful except by
returning again and again to God's faithful presence in our lives.

-- Henri Nouwen

Anonymous said...

i was tasked to do what bangras did at the construction sites in an Engineering firm during my IA days and subsequently learn that engineers don't earn much. If engineers want to earn as much as their banking peers, they would need to get their professional engineers title...if not, like what u mentioned, engineers earn pathetic salaries compared to salesmen!