Although U.S. corporations have enjoyed record profits over the last few years, that profitability is partially attributable to reductions in their workforces. Public companies face intense pressure to meet earnings expectations. Reducing labor costs is an obvious consideration when focusing on profitability. But over-zealous reductions in staff can have a negative effect in the long term. Many companies over the last few years have scaled back the use of interns and the hiring of just-graduated students. Many large law firms, for example, slashed hiring in 2009 and 2010.
While eliminating spots for interns and graduates may have an immediate positive effect on the bottom line, it has drawbacks as well. First, young people can often bring fresh insights, despite their inexperience. This is especially true in the technology industry or any industry with a youthful customer base. Second, while interns (like most workers today) are unlikely to remain with the same company for decades, they can be an important part of a business’s alumni network, providing business opportunities and networking value years down the line.
While business leaders may view interns and recent graduates as inefficient labor, they should keep in mind that the training and oversight that employers have traditionally provided to such young people may have to be applied to older workers too as technology continues to alter our economy.