Editor’s Note: The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that our society’s most essential workers are also our most vulnerable. That includes our interns.
In honor of National Internship Day, NationSwell Council member and “Pay Our Interns”‘ Co-Founder and Executive Director Carlos Mark Vera reminds us that if we want to #BuildItBackBetter, the American workplace can no longer compensate interns with experience — we have to compensate them with pay.
Experience doesn’t pay the bills, and many young people, including people of color and low income people, need to contribute to their household income. As millions of people have lost their jobs, young people have been deeply impacted. From cancelled internships and reduced wages to the evaporation of service industry jobs that many rely on to make ends meet, young people need our help.   
And while workers under 25 only comprise one-fifth of hourly paid workers in the country, they made up almost 50% of those paid the federal minimum wage or less. Currently over 7 million people under 30 are unemployed as a result of the pandemic. Fifteen percent of those between 18 and 24 were already living in poverty as of 2019—and that rate is higher for people of color. 
Many young people don’t qualify for unemployment and weren’t eligible for CARES Act funding, effectively being shut out of Congress’ efforts to support workers and their families. 
We need to take action. That’s why Pay Our Interns launched #SaveInternships, an intern relief fund that has provided over $30k in direct assistance to over 40 individuals, and why we are calling on Congress to include funding in the next stimulus package that will create jobs and provide assistance to young people. 
And, in the long term, leaders in the public, private, and nonprofit sector need to come together to develop to create jobs for young people so that we do not leave a generation behind.
Thursday is National Intern Day, and to celebrate this day we ask you to join us in taking action:  

  1. Sign the letter to Congress asking them to invest in job creation for young people. 
  2. Donate to the Intern Relief Fund so you can support young people directly. 
  3. You can share your support by posting on National Intern Day. Here is a social media toolkit with some sample tweets and graphics you can post to Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook! 

Carlos Mark Vera is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Pay Our Interns. He is also a NationSwell Council Member. To find out more about the NationSwell Council, visit our hub.