President Obama’s Latest ‘We Can’t Wait’ Initiative: Unpaid Internships

President Barack Obama has announced his latest job creation initiative: “Summer Jobs +” The program was created from two things: a) the president’s desire to invest $1.5 billion on summer and year-round employment for low-income people ages 16-2 and b) his failure to pass his “jobs” bill.

So, instead of relying on the “jobs” bill for funding, President Obama will defer to his trademark “We Can’t Wait” strategy and bypass Congressional authority.

“Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of executive actions the Obama administration is taking to strengthen the economy and move the country forward because we can’t wait for Congress to act,” a White House statement reads.

“America’s young people face record unemployment, and we need to do everything we can to make sure they’ve got the opportunity to earn the skills and a work ethic that come with a job. It’s important for their future, and for America’s. That’s why I proposed a summer jobs program for youth in the American Jobs Act — a plan that Congress failed to pass. America’s youth can’t wait for Congress to act. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” Obama said in a written statement.

The White House proudly proclaimed that — with help from the private sector —  it’s gotten commitments for nearly 180,000 youth employment opportunities for next summer.

The “Summer Jobs+” program has three components (via Kansas City Star):

  • Learn and Earn, in which employers provide paid internships or “permanent” jobs
  • Life Skills, in which employers provide “soft skills” or job-readiness training
  • Work Skills, in which employers provide job-shadowing or unpaid internships to prepare for future employment

“The president has been clear that where there is gridlock with this Congress, he will act,” said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. She noted that the unemployment level among those aged 16 to 24 is 16 percent, far higher than the 10.7 percent in 2007 before the recession began, according to The Hill.

Republicans charged the White House with taking credit for positions at places like CVS and Bank of America that were going to be created anyway.

“Everyone agrees internships are a helpful tool for youth, particularly in this economy. Yet rather than taking credit for programs that companies already had in place, a more constructive use of the White House’s time would be calling on Democratic leaders to act on the dozens of House-passed jobs bills still sitting idle in Democratic-run Senate,” a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a recent ABC News report.

In addition to the Speaker’s criticisms, there is another problem with the summer jobs program: many of the “jobs” are unpaid. In fact, only 70,000 of the “work opportunities” are paying positions.


Yep, only 38 percent of the 180,000 summer jobs are paid “work opportunities.”

So, although the White House wants to boast that it found 180,000 summer positions for unemployed young adults, it may find out the hard way that most people are uninterested in a job bank where 62 percent of the listed positions are unpaid.

In short, “these ‘jobs’ aren’t jobs at all (one must get paid to be classified as holding a job and being employed, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics spokesperson),” writes Tom Blumer of Newsbusters.

Nevertheless, the White House believes  “Summer Jobs +” is a worthwhile and noble effort.

“While young people who are currently disconnected from school or work are not contributing to our economy, we see these young people as ‘Opportunity Youth’ — because of the untapped potential they bring to the nation,” said Patty Stonesifer, chairwoman of the White HouseCouncil for Community Solutions, according to UPI.