To the editor:

Lois Collins' March 21 article entitled, "Deserving trainees should be hired," mentions the Single Parent Economic Independence Demonstration (SPEID) internship program in conjunction with the Summer Youth Try-out program. In her article, she describes an internship experience in which a private sector employer exploits the internship concept for the purpose of free labor.It is unfortunate for SPEID that it received mention in conjunction with this situation. No SPEID intern has experienced such exploitation. SPEID staff takes many precautions to prevent such an occurrence. They are as follows:

1. An internship designed specifically to meet the needs of the individual, not the employer.

2. Employers are prohibited from filling a vacancy with an intern.

3. The work is meaningful and skills oriented. It is not menial. For example,interns are working as paralegal assistants and human resource assistants.

4. A management-level employee from the business gives time to mentor the interns.

5. The intern serves professional and administration activities, as well as learning clerical skills.

The SPEID program staff closely monitors the quality of the internships, and meets regularly with the intern and mentor. In its first year, businesses have contributed an estimated $200,000 in services to facilitate training.

Visionary companies, such as US WEST Communications, Intermountain Health Care and Bonneville Media Communications, just to name a few, should be applauded for their contribution to helping single parents and displaced homemakers.

Thus far every SPEID intern who has completed the program is either employed or pursuing further education. The internship provided them with the confidence and skills needed to seek a job and the business contacts needed to "get a foot in the door."

More importantly, the internship has afforded them the dignity of becoming self-sufficient. Quality internship experiences with enlightened employers can make a difference.

Susan Sheehan

State SPEID director