When most people think about interns in business, they think about college students spending the summer working for a company related to their major to gain experience.
About half the time, the only thing they gain is experience since the job offers no salary.
In Silicon Valley, Bloomberg said, things operate differently. First, many interns for tech companies are high school students, or even younger. Second, some are paid more than the average monthly income for U.S. households of $4,280 based on U.S. Census Bureau figures.
Where Money Talks
Job-search site Glassdoor said it has become standard for engineering interns to get free housing, transportation and salaries of more than $6,000 a month. Of the top 10 companies that pay the most for interns, nine were technology companies. Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM) was the one exception.
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Privately owned Palantir came in at number one in salaries for interns at more than $7,000 per month. VMWare (NYSE: VMW) wasn’t far behind, paying its interns up to $6,966.
High Schoolers Welcome
Compensation is only part of the equation in Silicon Valley. Bloomberg reported hires as young as 13. More typically, however, interns – both paid and unpaid – were at least in high school. Among well-known firms hiring high schoolers were LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD) and Airbnb.
Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) was another company seeking out younger talent. The company, which said it was just beginning to recruit teens prior to their freshman year of college, hired Michael Sayman at the age of 17 right after he graduated from high school.
Only The Best Need Apply
It should be noted that Silicon Valley interns of any age were among the best and brightest young people around. They included young tech-oriented teens, many of whom have already begun programming or building mobile apps.
In a shout out to its young interns, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said in May, “talent is our number one operating priority and our most important asset, and this incoming group will continue to add to our team.”
All That Glitters Is Not Gold
Despite the findings of Bloomberg, the National Association of Colleges and Employers discovered that of the 55 percent of college undergrads with an internship during college, 47 percent received no compensation.
For those who were paid, minimum wage is far more standard than the $7,000 a month offered by Palantir.
Meanwhile, debate continued over the appropriateness of both unpaid and highly paid interns. For some, unpaid interns are part of an exploited class. For others, the exorbitant salaries paid some young people discourages them from continuing what many consider an essential college education.
At the time of this writing, Jim Probasco had no position in any mentioned securities.
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