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letters | the value of an unpaid internship

There was a time when employers were eager to train, and pay, new hires

From my time in high-tech management, I feel that Edward L. Glaeser has the wrong approach in his Oct. 31 op-ed “High value in unpaid internships.” I base this on two experiences that I had during my career — both situations in which trained and experienced individuals were not available.

The first was while managing a Digital Equipment Corporation field office in Dallas, Texas. We could not find enough experienced field-service candidates, so DEC put in place a program in which we targeted female candidates whom we felt were trainable. The accepted candidates were hired, sent to a DEC facility to be trained, and then returned to the hiring office. The program was a resounding success.

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The second was in the 1980s, when DEC could not find enough software engineering graduates and was hiring candidates who, for instance, were music graduates. The thought was that if you can learn music theory and compose, then you should be capable of learning a software language and writing programs.

The bottom line then is that the demand for engineers outpaced the availability, so companies were forced to train their own talent. The primary issue we have now is a lack of jobs, which corporations are using as a rationale for not training, and not paying, new hires, as they had in the past.

Paul Nelson


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