Home > Uncategorized > “Employer U Innovation” Reflects Diminishment of Corporate Training, Consequences of Unpaid Internships

“Employer U Innovation” Reflects Diminishment of Corporate Training, Consequences of Unpaid Internships

February 23, 2020

Brandon Bustead, the President of University Partners at Kaplan and former Executive Director of Education & Workforce Development at Gallup, wrote an op ed for Forbes magazine breathlessly describing a new innovation he calls “Employer U”. There are (at least) three problems with this article.

First is that the description of “Employer U” describes cooperative work study programs that have been in place for generations at colleges like Drexel (my alma mater), Northeastern, and Cincinnati to name a few. When I attended Drexel in the late 1960s I earned enough to pay my tuition, room and board and have enough left over to get married and begin a family…. which brings me to the second problem with Mr. Bustead’s article.

Second, corporations have side-stepped cooperative work study programs by “offering” unpaid internships to students, especially students from “brand” colleges and universities who can afford to work during the summer for free. These unpaid internships favor the children of extraordinarily wealthy families thereby eliminating an opportunity for equally talented but less affluent children to benefit from the programs.

Third, and most crucially, Mr. Bustead fails to point out that a generation ago corporations had their own training programs, programs they abandoned in the name of efficiency and reducing costs to provide shareholders with more money. Unsurprisingly, the elimination of employer-provided training coincided with the national outcry for more employment-ready high school and college graduates.

Many business-minded individuals want schools and colleges to provide better trained graduates while at the same time avoiding the payment of taxes to fund those kinds of programs AND while shedding employees in their own company who would offer such training. That kind of thinking created the problems we now have where there is a “mismatch” between graduates’ skills and corporate needs. The fix isn’t just an overhaul of post-secondary education: it’s also an increase in the wages paid to trainees in cooperative work-study programs and the willingness of corporations to pay individuals in their enterprises to train incoming workers.

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