Internships and Apprenticeships Feed

An intern's response about his internship experience.

This summer I had a student intern, Elliot Gaskin, from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, Ca. (Please read the previous two posts about internships for more information.)  After the internship was over, I asked Elliot to write a response about his internship experience.  Here it is:


Elliot Gaskin
Elliot Gaskin

FROM: Elliot Gaskin,
As a senior at the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California, I expressed interest in finding an internship to the director of the Metal Arts Jewelry Program, Charlene Modena. Based on my academic standing and credits I was approved for an internship.

My interest in pursuing an internship began when a close friend and fellow classmate raved about her experience as an intern. An internship at the Academy of Art University seemed like a great way to get my feet wet in the real art world. A few phone calls were made and an inquiry was published in the local metal arts guild letter by my director.  I was told that Harriete Estel Berman was interested in having an intern.


50 Pulleys Installation         2008
Elliot Gaskin, Photo:  by Ian McNemar

Two months later, I began my internship.  During the 7 week summer semester, I spent 135 hours as Harriete’s intern and learned an amazing amount of new and useful skills, tips, insights, and wisdom!

This was a great opportunity to be "in the moment/life" of an extremely hardworking successful artist. During the day, I watched her write emails, talk to museums and collectors, put together her artist packet, ship work, write professional guidelines, make aesthetic decisions, maintain her website and do a million other tasks, all at the same time.


Tagua Ring from the Pulley Series 2008
Elliot Gaskin,  Photo: Ian McNemar

Harriete was very open to my questions and ideas. She spent time critiquing my photos and the work I brought in. We also reviewed parts of my "artist packet."

I also enjoyed working and learning from Harriete’s three assistants, Emiko, Terry, and Margo. They each had a different role in the studio. Some days I helped Emiko photograph work and on others, I assisted Margo as she personalized Harriete’s artist envelopes and did many other tasks. Terry showed me how Harriete stays organized on her computer and keeps track of all of her artwork, photos, and documents.   

Wire Necklace from the Pulley Series
Elliot Gaskin,  Photo Credit: Bob Toy

The experience was short but well worth my time. Valuable information was learned that isn’t offered in any class. I got a great taste of the future and the world outside of school.

Best Regards,
Elliot Gaskin


This post was updated on December 27, 2021, to provide current links.

Internships: Who benefits from this experience?

Elliot Gaskin, my intern helping me at
Maker Faire. 2009

For the past six weeks, I've been working with an intern from the local Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California.  It has been an interesting and productive experience for both of us and only the second time that I ventured into this arena.

I have two children in college and have been aware of how valuable it is for young adults to gain real-world experience.  I felt that giving an internship experience to a local student was my way, in part, to support all young people in advancing their careers.

The internship program sponsored by the Academy of Art University, San Francisco was fairly open-ended but included the following statement in their materials:

The difference between an Internship and Employment
The difference, as set forth by the Department of Labor, for purposes of determining whether or not individuals must be paid for their work, is as follows:

An individual is an “employee,” and must be paid, if his or her activities benefit the company more than they benefit him or her. An individual is an “intern,” who may or may not be paid, if his or her activities benefit him or her more than they benefit the company.

Dilbert Bracelet (front side)
from the California Collection

I learned that there is a real concern that some interns are exploited as cheap labor.  Basically, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states that if the internship involves extensive productivity from the student and will not be allowing the opportunity for college credit, an intern must be paid for his or her work.  Consider carefully whether the internship falls under the category of Employment or Internship for credit.

I did some research on my own. This information is included in a previous post with more detail about the regulation of internships. 

As part of my internship effort, my intern and I covered a broad  range of professional practices, including:

  • Internet: Web sites, Dreamweaver, 2.0, blogs, SEO;
  • Images editing: Photoshop;
  • Image organization and Image Descriptions;
  • Promotional materials for galleries and museums;
  • Packing and shipping work ;
  • Preparing pedestals and didactic materials for exhibition;
  • Artist Statements;
  • Studio work: hallmarking, time management, pricing, studio maintenance;
  • Professional Guidelines;
  • Lecture preparation;
  • Tons of opinions about surviving as an artist;
  • and much more.

Dilbert Bracelet  (backside)
from the California Collection

This was just a brief summary of the topics we covered.

In my next post, I thought that my intern, Elliot Gaskin, could talk about his experience as an intern.

In the meantime, have any of you had an intern or an internship? What did you think was the best and worst part of the experience?



This post was updated on December 23, 2021.

Intern or Employee? Legal issues

Dear Ask Harriete,

I've been thinking about finding an intern to help me with my small business. They could get valuable experience.  However, are there any legal restrictions or implications?  Can you help?

Internship in need


Windows of Memory
Installation Dimensions:
75"height x 108"width x 19" depth

Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

 Dear Internship,

With this slow economy, many students and people are looking for a new career and may be looking for internships to gain experience in a particular field.  Many people, especially students, may be willing to work for little or no money to gain such experience. The flip side is that many small businesses (such as artists and craftspeople) may consider having an intern because they don't have a budget for hiring an employee.

The issue boils down to a simple principle;  An intern is not free labor.   An internship must be a learning experience for the intern.

Quoting Jay Zweig, a labor lawyer at Bryan Cave in Phoenix, AZ;  "An internship, to be unpaid and legal, needs primarily to be a learning experience for the intern and not something where the intern is expected to produce work product that is going to benefit the employer."  Continuing, Zweig said. "All it takes is one disgruntled intern, or their parent or spouse or friend , to call the U.S.Department of Labor, and the company who follows this type of exploitative advice is toast," he said.   "The government is becoming increasingly aggressive in hunting down these situation.”

“The bottom line: You can’t just call people interns to avoid paying them..”.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has developed six criteria for differentiating between an employee entitled to minimum wage or above and a learner/trainee who may be unpaid. The criteria for learner/trainee are:

   1. The training, even though it includes actual operations of the facilities of the employers, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school.
   2. The training is for the benefit of the student.
   3. The student does not displace a regular employee but works under the close observation of a regular employee or supervisor.
   4. The employer provides the training and derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the student; and on occasion, the operations may actually be impeded by the training.
   5. The student is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period.
   6. The employer and the student understand that the student is not entitled to wages for the time spent training.

Not all six factors have to be present in order for the individual to be considered a trainee. The experience, however, should look more like a training/learning experience than a job.


Windows of Memory (close-up view)
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Employers often question the fourth criterion -- that the employer derives no immediate benefit from the student's activities. This seems to contradict the contemporary practice of the use of internships by employers and colleges. To make the experience educationally valid, the same way that a student working in a college laboratory is expected to become actively involved in the work at hand, an intern is expected to participate actively in the work of the company. Several DOL rulings, while not directly addressing the criterion, seem to suggest that as long as the internship is a prescribed part of the curriculum, is part of the school's educational process, and is predominately for the benefit of the student, the fact that the employer receives some benefit for the student's services does not make the student an employee for purposes of wage and hour law.

For a valid internship position, you should be able to answer "yes" to at least half the following questions if an unpaid internship is being contemplated:

   1. Is the work that you are offering an integral part of the student's course of study?
   2. Will the student receive credit for the work or is the internship required for graduation?
   3. Does the student have to prepare a report of his/her experience and submit it to a faculty supervisor?
   4. Have you received a letter or some other form of written documentation from the school stating that the internship is approved/sponsored by the school as educationally relevant?
   5. Will the student perform work that other employees also perform, with the student doing the work for the purpose of learning and not necessarily performing a task for the employer?
   6. Is the student working and providing benefit to you less than 50 percent of the time and/or is the student in a shadowing/learning mode?
   7. Will you provide an opportunity for the individual to learn a skill, process, or other business function, or operate equipment?
   8. Is there educational value to the work performed, that is, is it related to the courses the person is taking in school?
   9. Is the individual supervised by one of your staff members?
  10. Is it clear that a job is not guaranteed upon completion of the training or completion of the person's schooling?

Source: Rochelle K. Kaplan, Legal Counsel, National Association of Colleges and Employers, 62 Highland Ave., Bethlehem, PA


Windows of Memory (close-up view)
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

I hope this is enough to answer your question.  I am an advocate of internship programs that provide a learning experience for people, young or old.  I believe that an internship is a situation in which you are giving at least as much, if not more than you are receiving.

For more information and personal perspective about internships, read the next two blog posts about internships. The first is about my experiences with my summer intern, Elliot Gaskin, and the second is Elliot's feedback about the internship.   


This post was updated on December 23, 2021.