The backlash against unpaid internships

Unpaid interns are illegal and yet ubiquitous

by Josh Dehaas

It could be payback timeWhen Michael graduated with a fine arts degree from the University of Toronto last spring to a tough job market, he was thrilled to be offered the position of marketing assistant for a festival. The posting said “compensation to be determined,” which he thought meant minimum wage or more. At the interview, he learned it was an unpaid internship with a $50-per-week stipend. He took it anyway, hoping it would give him “a foot in the door.” He’d live with his parents and get a part-time retail gig to pay the bills. But there was no time for a retail gig. Every evening was eaten up on the phone for work or driving around (in his own car, paying his own gas) putting up posters for the festival.

Laura was similarly disillusioned with her experience. She got no orientation and no training on her first day of work at a big-city daily newspaper. Instead, she was handed a press pass and told to laminate it on her way to the first of that day’s press conferences. She too paid for her own gas, her own parking, her own cellphone bill. The University of Alberta graduate was treated as a member of the full-time reporting staff—except she got paid nothing. At the end of the internship, instead of offering her a paid position, they brought in another intern. They do that every month. “Why hire me when they could just get another unpaid intern?” she says.

It turns out her internship was illegal, considering she was working at a for-profit business, wasn’t in school, and was doing work normally done by a paid employee. But Laura hesitated to complain, for fear of being blacklisted. (Like Michael, she still doesn’t want her real name used for this article.)

It’s the kind of story Alex Try, co-founder of U.K. website Interns Anonymous, hears nearly every day. Interns have written to him complaining of being forced to scrub toilets, having to make tea all day, or spending nights on the street because they missed the last train home from their unpaid gig. Try, who started the website after a night at the pub with friends who’d all graduated from university and fallen directly into unpaid positions, has captured a political movement with the site, which has had 150,000 hits since it launched in 2009. He’s learned of playful initiatives to draw attention to the cause, like the Paid-not-Played Choir, made up entirely of unpaid interns in London. “It’s a sad re-al-i-ty / that I have to work for free / making lots of cups of tea / in a cold gall-e-ry,” they sing in a video on Interns Anonymous.

But he has also learned of a growing trend to correct the imbalance, in part via court cases, like the one launched by an intern who worked as a reporter at the Independent newspaper in London and is now suing the paper for several months of back pay. It’s part of a nascent but growing backlash against the phenomenon of the unpaid internship. In 1992, only 17 per cent of American college students had done an internship (paid or unpaid) by graduation. By 2008, half of American graduates had held at least one internship (most unpaid), according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. And that was before the job market was flooded with eager, unemployed twentysomethings. “During the recession, companies said, ‘Hang on, there’s this massive surplus of talented labour willing to work for free,’ ” explains Try. He learned that car companies, grocers—even the elite London department store Harrods—offer unpaid internships.

The flouting of minimum wage laws caught the attention of the Obama administration in April 2010. It issued a directive reminding employers of which internships are legal and which are not. California has started issuing warnings to companies who take on unpaid interns. New York has similarly started investigating several unpaid internships offered by employers in that state. And recently, two Oregon men who installed solar panels for their “internship” last year were each awarded $3,350 in pay after they took the company to court. The jury decided they were there to learn, but instead had simply been put to work.

Internships are only legal in America if the employer is a charity or if the for-profit business offering them is “receiving no benefit” from the intern. In other words, unpaid interns are there to learn, not work for free. The laws are similar in Canada. The Ontario Employment Standards Act says that unless interns are students getting credit for school (or they’re working in an industry not covered by the legislation, like government or charities), the employee must be paid minimum wage. And the rules are pretty much the same coast to coast, says Matthew Cooperwilliams, a labour law professor at the University of British Columbia. Employers must ask themselves whether “the duty could go on either the intern’s desk or the paid person’s desk,” says Cooperwilliams. If the task is the same as what they’d ask a paid worker to do, it’s work that must be paid for.

Why, then, do so many illegal internships slip under the radar? As with illegal or migrant workers, there can be lifelong consequences for complaining, like alienating employers and not being able to get another job. So labour standards officials from Saskatchewan and Alberta say they hear few illegal interns complain. Linda McKay-Panos, executive director of the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, also believes many are simply unaware of their rights. She recently put together a handbook for young workers, to educate them.

For employers, the appeal of free labour can be irresistible. It’s hard to miss the irony of the labour-friendly Independent being sued for unpaid wages. (For the record, many large newspapers in Canada do pay interns, as does Maclean’s.) Even the Canadian federal government is guilty of using unpaid labour. Maclean’s spoke with one intern, Martina (not her real name), who worked for a Canadian embassy for several months. “They’d have been screwed without us,” she says, noting that much of her job had been done by a paid employee until recession-time layoffs. Although the job provided valuable experience and contacts, it was a financial stretch to fly to a foreign country, rent a place, buy a transit pass and eat—all on no income. Martina feels guilty her parents could pay her way, providing an opportunity many of her friends can’t afford. So do Laura and Michael, whose parents helped them. But Try says it best: “It’s a moral issue,” he explains, “because it means only those people who can afford to do an unpaid internship can get ahead.”

Not all internships are fraught. Laura’s first internship was a placement with an entertainment management company that trained her in copywriting, databases and video editing. Her boss took the time to review her progress each day. When a job opened up, they offered it to her. Similarly, Michael can’t say enough good things about his unpaid internship at a museum in Toronto. His bosses mentored him throughout. “They were never too busy to help,” he says. He now has a paid job in the field. The difference was that their worthwhile internships were primarily educational.

Alex Try admits there are good internships out there, too, but he doesn’t think graduates should take unpaid work. He points out that the communications firm that hired him into his “first proper job” was impressed by his ability to set up the Interns Anonymous website and manage a media campaign. Potential interns, take note: “What got me the job was not an internship,” says Try. “What got me the job was doing something for myself.”




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The backlash against unpaid internships

  1. In Quebec, students studying to become teachers have 3 mandatory internships. Not only are they not paid for these internships, they actually have to pay for them. In the third internship, the student completely takes over the class from the regular teacher.

    Meanwhile the regular teacher enjoys a nice little bonus to "supervise" the student.

    • Its called grad school. Every grad program has unpaid internships because its educational.

  2. Hmm… I didn't know this. Somebody should look into Bell Canada. They have a whole 'unpaid internship' that they advertise. I thought about applying but the thought of not getting paid made me feel like I was being used so I didn't.

  3. Hmm… I didn't know this. Somebody should look into Bell Canada. They have a whole 'unpaid internship' that they advertise. I thought about applying but the thought of not getting paid made me feel like I was being used so I didn't.

  4. I had no idea. This is really interesting, but I'm a little confused by this statement "In other words, unpaid interns are there to learn, not work for free." How do you learn anything without doing work? And how do you distinguish between what is work and what is learning? (I know getting coffee isn't learning) Don't you learn by doing some of the tasks that an employee would? The people they cite as examples were clearly being taken advantage of, but I'm guessing that some of them, like the girl at the embassy learned a lot too….by doing work. I'm not defending unpaid internships but this seems a little vague. If anyone is interested, we've been debating the value of unpaid internships from a student perspective. You can add your voice here http://bit.ly/fvWAaM

  5. I had no idea. This is really interesting, but I'm a little confused by this statement "In other words, unpaid interns are there to learn, not work for free." How do you learn anything without doing work? And how do you distinguish between what is work and what is learning? (I know getting coffee isn't learning) Don't you learn by doing some of the tasks that an employee would? The people they cite as examples were clearly being taken advantage of, but I'm guessing that some of them, like the girl at the embassy learned a lot too….by doing work. I'm not defending unpaid internships but this seems a little vague. If anyone is interested, we've been debating the value of unpaid internships from a student perspective. You can add your voice here http://bit.ly/fvWAaM

  6. Yes, that is "practical" part of a teacher's education. Do you have any idea how many clinical internships a nurse or a physician does during their medical education…and pays for everyone of them. I will give you a hint….it is a lot more than 3. As a nurse I did 8 and paid approximately $800.00 for each one. Then as a practicing nurse, I supervised nursing students who were doing their "internships". I got a "bonus" of 65 cents per hour for that. I was teaching them what to do in clinical situations…they had no experience.
    Maxime, you cannot even compare completing the necessary components of an education to what they are discussing here.

    • I'm not saying they're being exploited, but to ask them to pay for their internships is completely silly. The fee is supposed to compensate the school and the teacher for the extra work to supervise the student.

      But the supervision effort for the permanent teacher is not nearly as intense than what you're describing for a nurse. In fact, in the final internship the teacher has in fact far less work since the student is responsible for lesson preparation, corrections, class discipline, etc. All the permanent teacher does is review the work and provide counsel.

      • I am sure the teachers who did the supervising only got paid a pittance to supervise as well. The purpose of this exercise is to expose student teachers to their more experienced colleagues so they can watch their colleagues teach and handle a class and then practice those skills themselves in a "safe" environment. If they encounter problems, the colleague is there to mentor them and assist them.

        Believe me, I used to wonder as a student nurse why I was being asked to pay for my clinical experience. In the old day, they used to pay the student nurses for their "slave labor". However, you pay for this part of your education, just as you pay for your classes. You also have a student advisor. My guess is the teacher who does the supervision only gets a pittance for having a student advisor in his/her class. It is an expectation that you will mentor. You do not do it for the money. Oh yah, I forgot to count my spring clinical internships….I paid for 11 in 4 years!

  7. Yes, that is "practical" part of a teacher's education. Do you have any idea how many clinical internships a nurse or a physician does during their medical education…and pays for everyone of them. I will give you a hint….it is a lot more than 3. As a nurse I did 8 and paid approximately $800.00 for each one. Then as a practicing nurse, I supervised nursing students who were doing their "internships". I got a "bonus" of 65 cents per hour for that. I was teaching them what to do in clinical situations…they had no experience.
    Maxime, you cannot even compare completing the necessary components of an education to what they are discussing here.

  8. Unpaid internships are garbage. Even paid internships are lame. If you have more than one internship on your CV, you look naive and desperate, incapable of being an entrepreneur.

    I always tell friends and colleagues that it's better to spend time doing personal projects and pitches than internships.

    • We use paid internships in our office periodically, and sometimes the employees work out and sometimes they don't. Because there is no university in Canada who can train an employee to do what we do, and because it costs a fair bit to do it ourselves, it's nice to be able to see how capable a person is at learning and adapting to different situations before you take the big plunge and start investing money into them.

      EDIT: And yes, my industry is one in which networking is of vital importance. Individual projects might be useful, but unless you're targeting the specific people who might give you a job for your 'project', it's not going to help you get hired. And if you are targeting those people, you're really just doing an internship for yourself.

    • good for you , just go back to shool and spend another ten years learning a trade that will be obasolete before your graduation. another barainiac the world is full of your kind ask your parents for more money cry baby

      • Yes please, I *would* like fries with that.

    • sounds like somebody could use a six montth stay at "Distinguishing Between Things Which are Sometimes True and Things Which Are Always True" Corp. No pay, but work hard and they'll give you a good reference!

  9. Unpaid internships are garbage. Even paid internships are lame. If you have more than one internship on your CV, you look naive and desperate, incapable of being an entrepreneur.

    I always tell friends and colleagues that it's better to spend time doing personal projects and pitches than internships.

  10. We use paid internships in our office periodically, and sometimes the employees work out and sometimes they don't. Because there is no university in Canada who can train an employee to do what we do, and because it costs a fair bit to do it ourselves, it's nice to be able to see how capable a person is at learning and adapting to different situations before you take the big plunge and start investing money into them.

    EDIT: And yes, my industry is one in which networking is of vital importance. Individual projects might be useful, but unless you're targeting the specific people who might give you a job for your 'project', it's not going to help you get hired. And if you are targeting those people, you're really just doing an internship for yourself.

  11. I'm not saying they're being exploited, but to ask them to pay for their internships is completely silly. The fee is supposed to compensate the school and the teacher for the extra work to supervise the student.

    But the supervision effort for the permanent teacher is not nearly as intense than what you're describing for a nurse. In fact, in the final internship the teacher has in fact far less work since the student is responsible for lesson preparation, corrections, class discipline, etc. All the permanent teacher does is review the work and provide counsel.

  12. I am sure the teachers who did the supervising only got paid a pittance to supervise as well. The purpose of this exercise is to expose student teachers to their more experienced colleagues so they can watch their colleagues teach and handle a class and then practice those skills themselves in a "safe" environment. If they encounter problems, the colleague is there to mentor them and assist them.

    Believe me, I used to wonder as a student nurse why I was being asked to pay for my clinical experience. In the old day, they used to pay the student nurses for their "slave labor". However, you pay for this part of your education, just as you pay for your classes. You also have a student advisor. My guess is the teacher who does the supervision only gets a pittance for having a student advisor in his/her class. It is an expectation that you will mentor. You do not do it for the money. Oh yah, I forgot to count my spring clinical internships….I paid for 11 in 4 years!

  13. just another case of kids wanting something for nothing, if they only realised the exprerienc ehtey were getting and the fact they are in a way paying for this education , it shows me they at least are willing to put thier money where their mouth is stop your crying you big babies this is the new world that Harper and his spin doctors have planned for you and it wont soon change. so get down to business and stop your whinning

    • Ya and you wonder why we don't want to participate??? So expecting to be pais like you BOOMERS were is us whining you selfish @#$%s make me sick!!!

  14. just another case of kids wanting something for nothing, if they only realised the exprerienc ehtey were getting and the fact they are in a way paying for this education , it shows me they at least are willing to put thier money where their mouth is stop your crying you big babies this is the new world that Harper and his spin doctors have planned for you and it wont soon change. so get down to business and stop your whinning

  15. good for you , just go back to shool and spend another ten years learning a trade that will be obasolete before your graduation. another barainiac the world is full of your kind ask your parents for more money cry baby

  16. i am not advocating either side because there is a fine line between what you can learn in an office work environment, and when you are actually working. Rather than just thinkng of companies that provide unpaid internships as "evil", one should try out the internship, because as thr article says, most companies are just plain clueless!

    but on the other side, once you are there and you feel that you are being taken advantage of (usually a gut feeling suffices) there is usually not much you can do. if u do complain to the company, your internship will end and you wont get a reference. what then?

    • some of these internships don't even offer opinionated reference and won't acknowledge you were there.

  17. i am not advocating either side because there is a fine line between what you can learn in an office work environment, and when you are actually working. Rather than just thinkng of companies that provide unpaid internships as "evil", one should try out the internship, because as thr article says, most companies are just plain clueless!

    but on the other side, once you are there and you feel that you are being taken advantage of (usually a gut feeling suffices) there is usually not much you can do. if u do complain to the company, your internship will end and you wont get a reference. what then?

  18. Been an intern, have supervised them as well. Working for nothing (or nearly nothing) achieves a couple of things. One, it filters out the lightweights, those who need a reality check as to the actual work involved in any industry. One intern, a total washout, ran screaming from the job, and is now a very-rich real-estate sales professional. A completely different industry.

    The other is networking. Be useful and show that you can adapt, and if you can't get a job where you intern, you now have a group of professionals who can help you look and may be willing to advocate on your behalf.

    I have found, however, many of those that crash after a week have unrealistic expectations of salary and working conditions. No longer does a degree ensure a great paycheque and lots of time off right out of the gate.

    • Unless the internship is very short or can take the place of schooling, all it ensures is that the company is limited to taking on people who can afford to work for nothing. And if its very short, it's going to be of limited educational value.

      • It's possible to do a one or two-day per week internship and work a second job at the same time. Most students do it for school anyway, so it's a natural off-shoot. It just depends on priorities and how much a person actually wants to get a job in a specific field.

        At our shop, we hire almost exclusively from internal applicants, including present and past interns. We post every position publicly, of course, and usually receive between 30 and 60 applications, almost exclusively from fresh graduates. But we tend to chose the people we're familiar with, and who are familiar with us, and throw out all of those resumes.

        For example, I was recently at a conference and was approached by a young lady who was within weeks of finishing her masters. She came across as being very knowledgeable about my firm and industry, and showed her enthusiasm for looking for employment in the sector. She had done her research, and I saw that she also talked to at least three or four of my colleagues from different firms in the same field at the same conference. If I have an internship or paid position open up in the next few weeks, she'll be the first person I call.

        So for any new graduates out there, get off the couch, find local conventions in the field that you're interested in, do your homework, and get out there and network.

        EDIT: And be prepared to be rebuffed; it's not an insult if the person you're talking to quickly excuses themselves to catch another individual who they need to connect with at the same conference. They'll remember who you are, and their quick exit is not a slap in the face nor a comment on your company. They may actually prefer your company to the person they're chasing, but that's irrelevant. Networking is not like a dinner party, where politeness is key; people are there to work, and part of that work is connecting with specific other individuals. If they're good at what they do you won't even notice that they've abandoned you, but sometimes it will be unavoidably apparent.

        • A part time internship could be a lot like a short one, I guess, in terms of the flexibility of being able to take the position. On the other hand, it can still limit the pool though, because your forced to take applicants who can work around a schedule. If the average applicant can do the job once they're trained, it's not a big deal, but if a business gets a serious advantage by being able to hire the best candidate, they're still shooting themselves in the foot.

          It sounds like your firm might benefit from probationary employees rather than internships as they are commonly understood. You can still pay them less and if they don't work out can be let go without severance. In fact, there may be very

          • Indeed, we tend to use internships for the communications-related positions, which still have a huge networking component, and we use probationary periods for more technical positions, such as analysts. But even for those technical positions (which use graduate-level individuals), we find we get burned more frequently when we hire blind through the normal resume-interview process, etc, than we do if we have a relationship with the individual first.

            Perhaps it's just our operating environment, I'm not sure. It's certainly the weirdest place I've ever worked.

          • we find we get burned more frequently when we hire blind through the normal resume-interview process, etc, than we do if we have a relationship with the individual first.

            ***
            Do you mean that the interns you have hired back have been on the whole better than blind hires, or the pool of all interns in general has worked better than blind hires in general. Because the interns that didn't like the job or that you guys didn't like won't be applying/considered for new positions, so if you mean "rehires" from the intern pool it makes sense they would on the whole work out better.

          • I mean interns that went back to finish their term, who we then hired upon graduation, or who worked summers for us for minimum wage, were much better long-term hires than when we tried to fill permanent positions with blind hires. But we're a small shop, so i don't consider our experience anything more than anecdotal.

          • …little difference between the paid internship at your company and a probationary employee. Remember, I'm discussing "The backlash against the unpaid internship" in the article's title.

          • True, I did get a little side-tracked there. Apologies :)

            This has actually been very helpful to me as I never have sat down and contemplated interns at our firm. For us, paid vs unpaid is irrelevant. While money is a concern for us, dealing with an intern has the greatest cost in terms of time. We want the intern to have a valuable experience, so I try to get them to do something useful. However, frequently it takes me at least an hour to explain the background to a task that would take me 30 minutes to do myself. I'll do this because, as time goes on, the intern becomes more and more self-sufficient. Unfortunately, for short-term internships such as you're describing, most people won't put in that effort because it won't pay off. This is why, in my mind, many interns end up doing menial tasks and/or find themselves completely bored when the entire office is in an uproar, because people simply don't have the time to explain the tasks that need to be done.

          • Our unpaid internships are a month-long, 3 days a week. Some are students still in school, some not. Mine was a month long, 9-5 and I just looked at it as a continuation of my schooling. I went right from "work" to my evening job, just like a regular school day. For a month and useful experience and job contacts, they can suck it up and eat macoroni. We can flex their hours to make sure they can make their rent.

            We expect interns to have the basic skill sets so that we don't need to do much hand-holding past the first couple of days. We also don't give them the most vital and time sensitive stuff, so they get the experience, some of the pressure and real-world people skills. Looking at the example of the young reporter in the story, the only thing different from my experience and hers was that I didn't get a press badge. But if you're a journalism student who can't figure stuff out by asking questions…

            Sounds more like a "lousy employer" story than an "intern abuse" story.

  19. Been an intern, have supervised them as well. Working for nothing (or nearly nothing) achieves a couple of things. One, it filters out the lightweights, those who need a reality check as to the actual work involved in any industry. One intern, a total washout, ran screaming from the job, and is now a very-rich real-estate sales professional. A completely different industry.

    The other is networking. Be useful and show that you can adapt, and if you can't get a job where you intern, you now have a group of professionals who can help you look and may be willing to advocate on your behalf.

    I have found, however, many of those that crash after a week have unrealistic expectations of salary and working conditions. No longer does a degree ensure a great paycheque and lots of time off right out of the gate.

  20. Unless the internship is very short or can take the place of schooling, all it ensures is that the company is limited to taking on people who can afford to work for nothing. And if its very short, it's going to be of limited educational value.

  21. sounds like somebody could use a six montth stay at "Distinguishing Between Things Which are Sometimes True and Things Which Are Always True" Corp. No pay, but work hard and they'll give you a good reference!

  22. Yes please, I *would* like fries with that.

  23. It's possible to do a one or two-day per week internship and work a second job at the same time. Most students do it for school anyway, so it's a natural off-shoot. It just depends on priorities and how much a person actually wants to get a job in a specific field.

    At our shop, we hire almost exclusively from internal applicants, including present and past interns. We post every position publicly, of course, and usually receive between 30 and 60 applications, almost exclusively from fresh graduates. But we tend to chose the people we're familiar with, and who are familiar with us, and throw out all of those resumes.

    For example, I was recently at a conference and was approached by a young lady who was within weeks of finishing her masters. She came across as being very knowledgeable about my firm and industry, and showed her enthusiasm for looking for employment in the sector. She had done her research, and I saw that she also talked to at least three or four of my colleagues from different firms in the same field at the same conference. If I have an internship or paid position open up in the next few weeks, she'll be the first person I call.

    So for any new graduates out there, get off the couch, find local conventions in the field that you're interested in, do your homework, and get out there and network.

    EDIT: And be prepared to be rebuffed; it's not an insult if the person you're talking to quickly excuses themselves to catch another individual who they need to connect with at the same conference. They'll remember who you are, and their quick exit is not a slap in the face nor a comment on your company. They may actually prefer your company to the person they're chasing, but that's irrelevant. If they're good at what they do they'll excuse themselves from your conversation so gracefully that you won't even notice that they've abandoned you, but sometimes it will be unavoidably apparent. Networking is not like a dinner party, where politeness is key; people are there to work, and part of that work is connecting with specific other individuals. People will be smiling and laughing and looking like they're enjoying themselves, especially at receptions, but they are all getting paid to be there and a large number of them would prefer to be at home with their spouses and children, if you actually asked them.

  24. A part time internship could be a lot like a short one, I guess, in terms of the flexibility of being able to take the position. On the other hand, it can still limit the pool though, because your forced to take applicants who can work around a schedule. If the average applicant can do the job once they're trained, it's not a big deal, but if a business gets a serious advantage by being able to hire the best candidate, they're still shooting themselves in the foot.

    It sounds like your firm might benefit from probationary employees rather than internships as they are commonly understood. You can still pay them less and if they don't work out can be let go without severance. In fact, there may be very

  25. Indeed, we tend to use internships for the communications-related positions, which still have a huge networking component, and we use probationary periods for more technical positions, such as analysts. But even for those technical positions (which use graduate-level individuals), we find we get burned more frequently when we hire blind through the normal resume-interview process, etc, than we do if we have a relationship with the individual first.

    Perhaps it's just our operating environment, I'm not sure. It's certainly the weirdest place I've ever worked.

  26. …little difference between the paid internship at your company and a probationary employee. Remember, I'm discussing "The backlash against the unpaid internship" in the article's title.

  27. True, I did get a little side-tracked there. Apologies :)

    This has actually been very helpful to me as I never have sat down and contemplated interns at our firm. For us, paid vs unpaid is irrelevant. While money is a concern for us, dealing with an intern has the greatest cost in terms of time. We want the intern to have a valuable experience, so I try to get them to do something useful. However, frequently it takes me at least an hour to explain the background to a task that would take me 30 minutes to do myself. I'll do this because, as time goes on, the intern becomes more and more self-sufficient. Unfortunately, for short-term internships such as you're describing, most people won't put in that effort because it won't pay off. This is why, in my mind, many interns end up doing menial tasks and/or find themselves completely bored when the entire office is in an uproar, because people simply don't have the time to explain the tasks that need to be done.

  28. Our unpaid internships are a month-long, 3 days a week. Some are students still in school, some not. Mine was a month long, 9-5 and I just looked at it as a continuation of my schooling. I went right from "work" to my evening job, just like a regular school day. For a month and useful experience and job contacts, they can suck it up and eat macoroni. We can flex their hours to make sure they can make their rent.

    We expect interns to have the basic skill sets so that we don't need to do much hand-holding past the first couple of days. We also don't give them the most vital and time sensitive stuff, so they get the experience, some of the pressure and real-world people skills. Looking at the example of the young reporter in the story, the only thing different from my experience and hers was that I didn't get a press badge. But if you're a journalism student who can't figure stuff out by asking questions…

    Sounds more like a "lousy employer" story than an "intern abuse" story.

  29. we find we get burned more frequently when we hire blind through the normal resume-interview process, etc, than we do if we have a relationship with the individual first.

    ***
    Do you mean that the interns you have hired back have been on the whole better than blind hires, or the pool of all interns in general has worked better than blind hires in general. Because the interns that didn't like the job or that you guys didn't like won't be applying/considered for new positions, so if you mean "rehires" from the intern pool it makes sense they would on the whole work out better.

  30. some of these internships don't even offer opinionated reference and won't acknowledge you were there.

  31. I mean interns that went back to finish their term, who we then hired upon graduation, or who worked summers for us for minimum wage, were much better long-term hires than when we tried to fill permanent positions with blind hires. But we're a small shop, so i don't consider our experience anything more than anecdotal.

  32. I remember in high school I did a co-op placement and was put in a restaurant to bake deserts and make sauces.
    Had never had much training and was mostly handed a notebook with recipies and left to make sauces and pies.
    Now that I look back on that I was TOTALLY USED by the restaurant.
    Sure I did get a few school credits,but was "working" there 5 hours a day with no pay.

    Guess the only advantage now is that I ate all my meals there (lunch and dinner).
    Still for the amount of work I did I should have been paid something

    • The co-op placement in high school was probably during school hours, and you got credit for it. It’s just a hands on course that you took. That is completely legit. It’s different if they asked you to work on Saturday without pay.

  33. My son graduated as a recording engineer from Toronto's most prestigious audio school and was "lucky" enough to secure an internship with a studio that specialized in recording voice work for commercials. He was rarely allowed to do anything of commercial value and spent much of his time in a back studio taking three minute songs and editing them to one minute. This was a self-assignment to get more adept with audio editing software and was not checked or assisted by the employer. When they had a big casting call, he was sent to stay in the storage room so he wouldn't get in the way. The only real work he did over the two months he spent there was fill in for the receptionist during her holiday. Of course, that did not contribute to his knowledge of recording techniques. During the two months, he had to pay his rent in Toronto, his transit to get to and from work and his living expenses but received neither pay nor thanks. Working as an intern should have given him the opportunity to refine his skills under the supervision of the seasoned professionals, but it turned out to be a wasted period in his life.

  34. My son graduated as a recording engineer from Toronto's most prestigious audio school and was "lucky" enough to secure an internship with a studio that specialized in recording voice work for commercials. He was rarely allowed to do anything of commercial value and spent much of his time in a back studio taking three minute songs and editing them to one minute. This was a self-assignment to get more adept with audio editing software and was not checked or assisted by the employer. When they had a big casting call, he was sent to stay in the storage room so he wouldn't get in the way. The only real work he did over the two months he spent there was fill in for the receptionist during her holiday. Of course, that did not contribute to his knowledge of recording techniques. During the two months, he had to pay his rent in Toronto, his transit to get to and from work and his living expenses but received neither pay nor thanks. Working as an intern should have given him the opportunity to refine his skills under the supervision of the seasoned professionals, but it turned out to be a wasted period in his life.

  35. Ya and you wonder why we don't want to participate??? So expecting to be pais like you BOOMERS were is us whining you selfish @#$%s make me sick!!!

  36. This is a great article because it brings awareness to a problem several 20somethings are facing.

    I have completed three internships since 2009. My first one was via my university's international program, which paid for my entire experience abroad for 3 months. The second one was in Toronto's film industry; part-time and paid a monthly stipend of $500 for three days a week. Definitely not enough to save. The third one was also in the film industry, it paid a bit more than $500 a month for three days a week. When I calculated it, I would have been making $4/hour at the third internship. That being said, they had an excellent training program and the supervisor really looked after the intern, always checking up and making sure I was on the right track. I even had two performance-esque reviews which were helpful to be honest, because it showed that the supervisor cared. I was able to prove myself by working fast and volunteering to do other interesting things with the company. I can say that this never happened at the other two internships I completed. They were self-directed by google searches, and really, I wasn't learning any solid skills.

    There was another secret internship in there. I only completed one day of this 'job'. Because transportation was costing so much, I asked the boss if they could cover my TTC tokens – only $3 one way, amounting to $6 a day. They outright refused and were extremely angry that I could have asked such a thing since the ad said it was an "unpaid internship". Well, I couldn't afford to be an unpaid intern for a start-up for-profit company. I was disgusted by their inflexible behaviour and will never support this company again.

    Now that I want to "switch industries" and work in publishing, I realize I will probably have to do another 3 internships, and because this industry certainly lacks money, I guarantee it will be a lot like my 'secret internship' – begging for pay, which will solely be used for transportation costs.

    Unrelated to the content of the story (and sorry to be a grammar troll), I am surprised by how much this article lacks editing:
    "She got no orientation and no training on her first day of work"
    "only 17 per cent of American college students had done an internship"

    Shame, absolute shame. I just done got me an internship! An unpaid intern would do a much better job.

  37. So, now that you know my life story, I wanted to make myself clear: I do not ever want an unpaid internship. I expect some stipend or small amount of money to cover the cost of living. Negotiate with your supervisors and HR. Maybe there is a way to cover those transportation and lunch costs. It's simply unfair to work for free, especially if you are commuting long distances.

  38. So, now that you know my life story, I wanted to make myself clear: I do not ever want an unpaid internship. I expect some stipend or small amount of money to cover the cost of living. Negotiate with your supervisors and HR. Maybe there is a way to cover those transportation and lunch costs. It's simply unfair to work for free, especially if you are commuting long distances.

  39. Help us! We need people to comment on their personal experiences, it can be done anonymously. This unqualified producer is a scam artist on all levels, breaking labour laws by employing over 100 interns with no management and is embarrassing our city. This is not a pro or amateur situation, it’s about a man that cons designers (from abroad) uses students and makes inappropriate passes at them, low production quality and pocketed sponsorship dollars. It’s called a scam. And it has been overlooked for years.On Monday this goes to the press…and on Wednesday our Mayor.Please say something on there!www.vancouverfashionweak.com

  40. I had found an unpaid internship job advertisement on my University’s Career Centre Job Postings. I followed it up and it turned out that an intern working in a reputed Canadian clothing and leather goods company in Canada had posted it. The company had a magazine. They hire interns at their head office to prepare the magazine. It all sounds good, but the catch is that they do not pay these interns. I was also hired as one of these unpaid interns. Some interns in the past were given credit, but most were not given course credit. When I was provided journalistic assignments by them, I had to pay for my own transportation to go to places they told me to go.  I do not know if things have changed around there, but till the beginning of the summer of 2010, they did not pay their interns for sure. Until recently I have come to know that unpaid internships are illegal in Canada unless the company is a non-profit company or a charitable institution or they are giving course credit. The names of the interns appear in the magazine. The ‘interns’were hired by the director of public relations. He once made some extremely shocking racist statements in my presence.Inspite of coming from a very educated background, he treated me like low class dirt and was extremely uncivil and hypocritical. The human resources of the company consisted of one woman and the co-chairman of the company was well aware of these internships. I left that place and got a proper internship at a corporation where diversity was respected.

  41. Someone should really look into that Bell PMP internship headed by Henry Mar….I was once a participant there and there are many forums and a site filled with experiences of unhappy past/current interns. There should definitely be regulation in environments that are exploitive, abusive, psychologically harmful, and humiliating. The program is apparently a Harvard Alumni and has many years of experience in the telecom industry and claims his program is the best environment for learning skills that you can use in the real world…lol…unlikely with how much abuse he puts interns through. My word of advice- DO NOT APPLY. You can find better internship/volunteer opportunities elsewhere. After completing the program I realized one very important thing, its not really about the money, its how well you are treated, respected and appreciated for your contribution.

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