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Internships are they worth it?

Does an internship make sense for you?
Does an internship make sense for you?
Mount Real Forum

Internships are they worth it?

Recently was involved on an online discussion about internships. In particular the kind that are unpaid. These are most common in more attractive industries such as magazines, fashion, and related media. However they crop up all over.

A conversation with a university graduate, in law, was enlightening. They must get experience – a stage – before being able to qualify as a lawyer. A minority (1/3) of the students from this persons graduating class were able to obtain an internship with a paying firm – think larger downtown firms that use this as a recruitment technique. Another third were able to find stages with lawyers, but not necessarily for a salary…it varied but they might get expenses or a fee based on labor produced. The remaining third? They were wondering about their career choices, complaining that they could not get a paid internship, looking for work to pay the bills or off on a vacation.

Now this might not be a representative sample but it gives us an idea. Not all people are looking for the same thing. Some get ahead with contacts, networking, looks or luck. Others have to muck it up.

Was talking to another student lawyer and he was working for a large law firm. The firm was billing their client almost $200 per hour for his services, which often was clerical or note taking in nature – big firm, big clients, big budget.
Fair? What does fair have to do with it?

Earlier this year the Ontario ministry of labour shut down two internship programs at two of Canada’s leading magazines — Toronto Life and The Walrus. The reason? The programs were not compliant with the Employment Standards Act. That seems to make sense. There are rules and everyone should follow them. But what happens when the rules get in the way of good business or smart business?

In the past a small print publisher that we worked with stated: “If we asked them to show up topless of the chance getting their name or photo in a print magazine – they would, both male and female.” Now we are not sure if that is true, but we did see some crazy stuff. So should internships be 100% paid, banner or heavily regulated?

Listen to a small butcher shop manager that gets asked regularly to train a butcher or two. “We want to help the kids out. We are always looking for a good, affordable butcher, that is not a diva but these kids come out of school not knowing how to cut meat. There is no budget in the schools for them to buy meat, so they want to walk into the shop, tell us how to do things and often ruin the piece of meat as they do not know how to work it effectively. No thanks.’

So that age old dilemma: “Only those with experience need apply.”

It is easy for those working in the public sector – bureaucrats and university professors – whose salaries are guaranteed by our tax dollars to issue edicts and rules but does that help businesses or the young men or women that need that all important ‘experience?’

A better way most be found.

Three suggestions:

  • Have the business pay the students, but get it up to a 100% tax credit (on top of the deduction) – simple online application, but interns need to post before they can cash their checks
  • Have fewer bureaucrats involved in the process and make hiring, training and paying youths more flexible for a period of time.
  • Make internships a mandatory part of the education process with benefits to firms that are qualified to train the interns

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