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I’ve had a number of students ask me for letters of recommendation to help them secure their summer internships. Almost all of these internships are unpaid. Three quick observations:

(1) It seems to be that high-end jobs have completely outsourced basic training to their future employees instead of it being done by them. You should see how much work my students have had to do in order to secure an internship on Wall St. – they have basically abdicated their basic status as students for a couple months in their preparations to learn everything about investment banking on their own.

(2) It seems to be that high-end jobs have virtually stopped screening candidates on their own – universities do all of the hard work in screening and selecting students, and then they just pick among them. I find this somewhat depressing.

(3) Do you think it is “ok” to have an unpaid internship? If so, then how can you also support a minimum wage at the same time? I hereby propose that we ban all unpaid internships and that no college student needing work experience should ever suffer the indignity of earning no wage – all internships must pay a minimum of $15 per hour.

3 Responses to “Very Simple Question”

  1. sherlock says:

    (2) It seems to be that high-end jobs have virtually stopped screening candidates on their own – universities do all of the hard work in screening and selecting students, and then they just pick among them. I find this somewhat depressing.

    The NBA and NFL were ahead of their time.

  2. Dan Wang says:

    I’ve noticed (1) also in startups. On both the engineering and business side, there would be virtually no mentorship; one is expected to have picked up the skills in school and other jobs. Makes sense in that context, I suppose, but I had hoped that there would be more investment and training in people at larger companies.

    For large companies, perhaps this is a perfectly rational response to younger employees staying for shorter periods of time.

  3. The Supreme Court decision in Griggs v. Duke Power Company (Dec 1970) must be reversed. It is unreasonable to stop companies and others from testing the knowledge and general aptitude of their prospective employees.


    The most awful licensing restriction in the US is the college degree. Colleges are allowed to test for general aptitude, reasoning, and knowledge. Businesses are prohibited from using such testing for prospective employees. The legal restrictions are so onerous and vague that businesses usually require that applicants for managerial work have a college degree to substitute for an intelligence test.

    Companies would rather hire intelligent people at all levels and hope that they will move up to more trusted and productive positions. So, we see college degrees being sought for entry level jobs. This means extreme pressure to get a college degree at all costs. This creates the demand that this very expensive pastime be free to all.

    College is an expensive IQ test

    The law says that a company cannot give an employment test unless the test has been shown to be non-discriminatory in effect and directly related to the job being filled. Any test for general intelligence cannot screen out people of color at a different rate than people of pallor. That restriction is hard to meet and can violate the law due to local variations in the job applicants.

    So, employers don’t create their own tests or use standardized tests. Companies rely heavily on college degrees to give them some little information about the quality of candidates. Interviewers talk randomly about whatever they want, using personal judgment to decide if the candidate is “a good match”. This is supposed to be less discriminatory than giving a test. Amazing.

    Let producers run their businesses. Let some bigots damage themselves by excluding the best people because of different colors or nationalities. Free the other employers to teach, test, apprentice, and even bill for training, to open up both education and the labor market to innovation and the desire to maximize production.

    I think it would be very hard for investment banks to construct effective employment exams which would narrowly test for only the skills used by interns. So, they would rationally rely on college evaluations, even if they would be eager to give their own tests.

    Also, investment banks are not generally liked, and would be targets of SJW attacks that the banks were discriminating against minorities.

    So, they rely on a college degree and any self-taught knowledge as the safe course.

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