Recent doubt regarding unsolicited hiring practices and potential legal misbehavior have called into question the on-campus presence of College Works Painting, a company that employs college students who learn to build and manage their own summer home-painting businesses.
Hired students who have previously completed the program, referred to as “regional consultants,” often visit a variety of classes to promote the company, handing out paper slips for students to fill out their contact information. Students are later contacted through e-mail or phone to begin an extensive interview process.
Aaron Sikes, event coordinator with Campus Events and Visitor Services, said that he is aware of a campus policy, which states this type of activity requires a fee of $1,800 per day.
“Gaining access to the student body for commercial purposes constitutes commercial activity,” he said in an e-mail interview. “No one from my office has been approached by College Works to reserve a space for commercial purposes.”
Brett Burns, executive director of Auxiliary Enterprises for the Division of Student Affairs, explained that these in-class announcements are not allowed.
“College Works should not be utilizing classroom time for commercial purposes,” he said.
Brian Moaddeli, College Works Painting’s vice president of Northern and Southern California, said that he was unaware of any stipulations regarding such on-campus commercial activity.
“The reality of it is we’ve always left it up to our students on campus to do their recruitment,” he said. “We’ve always told them to be very transparent [and] to ask a professor before making an announcement.”
When asked about the qualities that College Works looks for in an employee, Moaddeli said that the company typically hires interns that are well rounded and well established as students.
“We hire people based on a certain criteria,” he said. “How well they’ve done in school, whether they are hard working [and if] they want to be in a performance-based environment and build the leadership component of their resume.”
Moaddeli explained that once hired, interns immediately go through training, where they learn the technical aspects of painting. Afterward, with the help of a regional consultant, they learn how to develop a business and marketing plan. During the summer, interns hire and teach their own team of painters to perform the actual house painting.
The level of work required of a College Works intern has pushed some former employees to pursue legal action against the company. A recent advertisement in The California Aggie asked any former painters that were paid on an hourly basis to contact Beeson, Tayer & Bodine, an Oakland law firm, to provide any information that could aid two ongoing lawsuits.
Teague Paterson, a partner with the firm, said that the College Works business model requires interns to flout California Labor Laws. The two lawsuits, one in Alameda County and another in San Diego County, allege that past interns have made their painters work overtime, sometimes without compensation.
“To be successful and make any decent amount of money for the time invested requires overtime after eight hours worked,” said Paterson. “We have [also] found plenty of instances where the painters are paid in cash. In order to make money, [interns] have to skirt the law and pay cash.”
When asked to comment on these legal issues, Moaddeli said College Works was upset that such allegations were circulated in the advertisement in The Aggie. This is because, according to Moaddeli, the lawsuits focus on intern’s painters, not the interns themselves.
“[The lawsuits] are not related to our interns, they’re related to the painters,” he said. “There are a couple painters that were shortchanged overtime hours. We don’t know the details of how it’s going to turn out.”
Moaddeli added that in order to be successful, interns have to put forth their best effort.
“Our business is like a sport,” he said. “You put into it what you get out of it. It’s all about the mentality.”
Adam Elconin, a former managerial economics major at UC Davis and a highly regarded employee by Moaddeli, also explained that College Works is a worthwhile opportunity for only those that are willing to work hard.
“I wanted to look at it from a sports perspective, because that’s how I grew up,” Elconin said. “Some people are always just going to be more talented. It comes down to the intern being responsible [about] the effort that is needed.”
Other UC Davis students had different opinions about the work involved in being a College Works intern. One student, who wished to remain anonymous, said she quit before the summer started because she was frustrated with the amount of work she was asked to do.
“I was [once] told to meet with the rest my group in Berkeley the next day at 4 [p.m.] sharp,” she said in an e-mail interview. “When I informed my manager that I had class until four in Davis, he asked that I skip it.”
The student said that while College Works may be a good experience, it does not allow one to simultaneously be a regular student.
“I was not willing to put in the time, and sacrifice my college education, to finish the internship,” she said. “You are first an owner of a painting business and second a student. I did not come to Davis to do that.”
The Internship and Career Center, which has no jurisdiction over the on-campus presence of commercial businesses, encourages students to visit its offices when making a decision about internship or career opportunities.
Jeanne Shelby, ICC associate director and project manager, said she and the other project managers are very eager to help students.
“We all do everything we can do to encourage students to come to our offices to connect with companies,” she said. “We’re all about helping students find opportunities that will help their career after they’re done at Davis.”
VICTOR BEIGELMAN can be reached at email@example.com.