First Unpaid Internships Were Illegal, Now They Count as "Summer Jobs"

Posted: Jan 12, 2012 12:01 AM

Last week, we learned that the Obama administration (via the Department of Labor plans to unilaterally launch a new "Summer Jobs+" program for young people.

Frankly, it's about time the administration acknowledged the dour jobs environment it has created for young people, but "Summer Jobs+" adds little relief to America's youth.

The jobs and internships being advertised already exist in the private sector, and the only real change is that the Obama administration will stop prosecuting private companies for offering unpaid internships.

Does the administration think we forgot about their actions in 2010? That summer, the acting director of the Department of Labor's wage and hour division, Nancy J. Leppink, demonized unpaid internships, saying:

If you're a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren't going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law.

Now, Leppink-who is now the deputy administrator of the wage and hour division-has put this rhetoric to rest in order to pad the Obama administration's jobs figures.

The administration claims to have "180,000 job commitments" from private employers, but according to the White House press release, only 70,000 (38%) are paid positions. So, instead of prosecuting the employers offering the remaining 110,000 internships, the Department of Labor is now praising these employers and counting these internships in their jobs numbers.

Here's how the Department of Labor i>now explains the three types of "jobs" being offered by "Summer Jobs+":

· Learn and Earn, in which employers provide paid internships or "permanent" jobs

· Life Skills, in which employers provide "soft skills" or job-readiness training

· Work Skills, in which employers provide job-shadowing or unpaid internships to prepare for future employment

Americans ought to be grateful that this administration has finally stopped attacking employers who offer voluntary learning opportunities, but no one should believe that the administration created these positions-they we're created by businesses.

And, the fact that the administration can only find 70,000 new jobs listings for young people shows how bad the market really is. Approximately 1.7 million college seniors will graduate in 2012, and while some of them will move on to graduate school, the rest will be competing for this small number of jobs.

For the vast majority of young people who will be left jobless or underemployed, the Obama administration's new program is just lip service. Bragging about unpaid internships isn't a real jobs policy. It's disingenuous. At best, they're helping make young people aware of these limited opportunities.

Instead of putting up jobs postings, how about repealing the damage already done to the job market by this administration?

This administration's current policies are responsible for making young people economically miserable (as Young America's Foundation has reported in the Youth Misery Index), and the only way to give them permanent employment relief is to create an environment for permanent hiring.

The uncertainty created from ObamaCare, the Dodd-Frank legislation, and this administration's pro-tax-hike rhetoric, is killing long-term jobs for young people. Coupled with high deficit spending-which sucks money out of the private sector and into bureaucracy-this administration's policies have been nothing short of anti-youth.

Putting young people back to work requires more effort than organizing lists of internships and jobs already being offered in the private sector. It's wonderful that the Obama administration no longer considers unpaid internships illegal, but this small step is laughable to young people who face historic unemployment and record-smashing college debt.

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