My parents have never been shy in expressing that internships are nothing short of slave labour, but I've always been split. Yes I think internships should be paid, or at the very least given travel expenses (because really, how else do they expect people to afford to get there?) I also see the value in internships - it's the only way to be considered in a design job nowadays, unless you're just brilliantly unique with an exceptional portfolio, which has to be a very small number of people.
I was reading about this on the Guardian website (main article here, a second one here, and a success story of an intern winning compensation for their unpaid work here) There was an interesting point about if the intern is doing actual work, rather than just being trained, then they should be treated as a worker and paid accordingly.
This very much made me think of the internship I did at the start of the summer, which really wasn't an internship the more I think about it. I was definitely doing real work. I barely got any training. I actually think I got almost none at all. I was taught one trick in Photoshop, ended up teaching myself Illustrator and QuarkXPress, and the admin stuff they really didn't help at all, just expected me to know it all. It's no surprise that by the end of the six weeks I hated it, and I'm so glad I didn't take the "Office Junior for 12k a year" job they offered me. They said I came across shy, which I'll admit I am a bit, but they did nothing to make me feel welcome, they barely spoke to me, they would tease me if I didn't do something right (I remember one time I was putting text/photos into a quark template, and the photos were as jpegs, not tiff files, and they said "you forgot to save them as tiffs" (queue other 3 designers laughing) ...err, HELLO?! you never, ever told me to save them as tiffs. I don't know if this is something I just should have known, but I'd never worked in a commercial design environment, and they knew that, so I'd never had to do that before)
Ok so I've made up my mind now. I hate internships. It is a real shame that getting a job in design now is based on experience rather than talent. I mean I understand companies want someone who knows what they're doing, but they won't even take a chance on someone who may not know exactly what they're doing, but is so keen for the job and desperate to prove themselves and learn how to do it all, that they'd probably make for a better employee anyway.
Rant over now. I need to go and calm down!