For the past couple of days, my friend and I are rigorously working to get ourselves enrolled in an internship program, to enrich our CVs. However, not everyone has equal access to such opportunities.
In the last few years, internships have emerged to be the prestigious flower in the bouquet of CVs—which everyone wants to add.
Internships from esteemed organisations and companies can make you stand out in the “job market”, as you can claim to have practical and professional experience along with theoretical knowledge.
But, the opportunity of experiencing the field is not equally available to all. The requirement of internships for job applications has widened the opportunity gap between the privileged and marginalised.
Internships have become a part of what Perrier Bourdieu has term as “social capital”. In his easy “The Forms of Capital” (1985), Bourdieu defined two different capitals which determine individual’s social mobility in a society.
Bourdieu refers to cultural capital as the collection of symbolic elements such as skills, tastes, mannerisms, material belongings etc.; while, social capital refers to the resources that are gained from being part of a network of social relationships.
Together, they influence social standing and opportunities that can be accessed by an individual or social groups.
Internships can be seen as an extension of pre-existing, social inequalities and hierarchies in our society. Being an intern in an organisation is not only determined by your skill and/or knowledge, but combinedly decided by your social identities.
Internship fetishism by schools, colleges and jobs, isolate students who are already at the margins due to their class, caste, gender, ability, location etc.
Internships programs are inherently biased, as they favour students who are already part of the elite group, because of their inherited culture and social capital.
In our society where higher education is a luxury, how can students from deprived backgrounds afford to have “field experience”, when most of the internships are unpaid with long working hours?
It becomes even more difficult for female students who are not allowed to leave their native towns: nearly every opportunity is located in metropolis.
They have to deal with a host of obstacles—from supporting their parents while studying and helping with household chores, to being discriminated against on the basis of one’s caste and simply not being allowed to leave their town.
Internships are built around the relationships and social networking between organisation, private college and elite parents.
Internships have the ability to change the hegemonic structure of our education and job economy by providing a level playing field for every student. It can mitigate cultural privileges, but instead, it become an institution of promoting cultural and social biases in our society.