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The Boston Globe

Opinion

EDWARD L. GLAESER

High value in unpaid internships

In the face of lawsuits alleging violations of minimum-wage laws, the magazine company Conde Nast ended its famed internship program last week. To many observers, it seems exploitative for the publisher of Vogue and other glitzy titles to pay young interns little or nothing — and inequitable when such opportunities are open only to students whose families can afford to support them.

Yet the Conde Nast case obscures a deeper problem: In a variety of industries, current students and recent graduates don’t yet have the skills and experience needed to contribute meaningfully to an employer’s success, and even entry-level paid positions attract an ample supply of well-qualified applicants. In these cases, internships are one tool for turning unskilled neophytes into able veterans who can better compete for full-time jobs.

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