For “Millennials”, is the never-ending unpaid internship the new normal?

Alex Williams in a recent New York Times article observed that Millennials feel trapped in a cycle of internships with little pay and no job offers.

Call them members of the permanent intern underclass: educated members of the millennial generation who are locked out of the traditional career ladder and are having to settle for two, three and sometimes more internships after graduating college, all with no end in sight.

Like an army of worker ants, they are a subculture with a distinct identity, banding together in Occupy Wall Street-inspired groups and, lately, creating their own blogs, YouTube channels, networking groups and even a magazine that captures life inside the so-called Intern Nation.

The fascinating thing about the internship lifestyle is how it is evolving:

Stage One: Millennials go after unpaid internships for experience, to hopefully get a job from it, to follow their passion instead of taking a more traditional job path;

Stage Two: Millennials go from one internship to another to another;

Stage Three: Millennials begin to see internships as part of normal job hunting;

Stage Four: Millennial interns define themselves as a subculture or a special class;

Stage Five: The “intern nation” spawns blogs, a movie, a magazine, numerous lawsuits demanding pay, something called Intern Labor Rights, and finally, a backlash against “intern rights” causing businesses to drop their intern programs.

My question is: “Who’s paying for their room and board?” Helicopter parents?

We are in the middle of a down economy where it is hard for young adults to follow a normal job path. Young adults may need some help.

But, is it helpful or harmful to the Millennial Generation to subsidize and therefore encourage a prolonged period of never-ending internships? Is this simply a form of too-long unemployment benefits for the educated?