Coffee Careers: What Are Internships Worth?

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Internships are critical for hands-on experience in a new profession – especially in an industry complex as coffee. Developing new skills and connections gives you a critical advantage in today’s competitive job market.

For employers, interns offer companies fresh perspectives, critical support to boost team productivity, and/or specialized talent to knock out that key project with long-term benefits. It’s also a great way to give back to the industry, cultivating future leaders through education and mentorship. [Ed. note: Check out our new Coffee Career Center for internships tailored specifically for the coffee industry.]

Here, NCA CEO (and association veteran) William (Bill) Murray shares the importance of establishing an ethical internship program, creating a mutually beneficial and rewarding experience.

Should interns be paid for their work at an association?

I would cite four reasons to pay interns.

First, companies that hire unpaid interns face risks. There are complex Department of Labor rules concerning internships, and while there are exemptions for certain types of non profit organizations, running afoul can be costly.

Second, we want students to consider careers in [our industry]. Paying an intern sends a strong signal about expectations and opportunity.

Third, most of us were students once – and with tuition costs higher than ever before, most students need to help to defray the costs of their education.

Finally, paying interns supports diversity.  We know that ethnic and racial diversity can correspond to economic opportunity.  By paying interns a more diverse pool of candidates becomes available – not just those who can afford to work for free.

Can you talk a bit about why you created the Professional Standards Advisory on the Ethical Use of Interns while at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)?

[PRSA] had more than 300 student chapters across the U.S. at colleges and universities, and more than 10,000 student members. Fierce competition for jobs, coupled with the business model of the public relations sector made it easy for PR firms to hire unpaid interns.  We felt it important to educate our members – both students and professionals – about the issue.

How have you approached internships in your position at the National Coffee Association? 

We recently launched the first-ever coffee-specific job board, the Coffee Career Center.  Employers are invited to post internships for free, and our guidelines recommend that internships be paid.  If we do implement a formal internship program here at NCA , we’ll compensate our interns.

Questions or comments about internship opportunities in the coffee industry? Share in the comments below.

Visit the Coffee Career Center to make a free account and find the latest opportunities – or post an internship today.

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