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Snapshot of Unpaid Listings @ York

In Universities, Unpaid Internships on August 23, 2011 at 10:11 pm
Student at library

Credit: tomjonescoaley on flickr

Of the career listings on my (soon to be) alma mater, York University, about 8-9% of today’s postings are unpaid.

Total listings: 1311
Paid internships: 21
Unpaid internships: 104
Volunteer: 126

There is some overlap between the unpaid/volunteer category because listings can use multiple categories, but when compared to the paid internship positions available, the numbers speak volumes about the situation of internships in Canada.

The unpaid and volunteer positions vary. There are positions in marketing, accounting, research and development, fundraising, web design, public relations, and more. Some are full time, some are part time. Some prefer graduates and ask for related experience, others will work around school schedules and expect no prior experience (though it’s an asset if available).

Some are clearly small start-ups that are expanding, while others are large, established firms. There are the usual NGOs and charitable organizations, but several for-profit companies are also featured, including Bell Mobility (with a robust-sounding training program), RBC Dominion Securities, marketing and consulting firms, international NGOs, and local businesses.

Though perhaps many of these programs offer meaningful experiences, it is unclear in most of the listings how the internship will benefit the intern, other than the implied benefit of getting experience. Some offer impressive sounding training programs, while others only list duties that the intern will perform. Many are vague on the formalities of what the internship offers. For example, one post notes only that “interns will take on meaningful roles that will add significant value to their learning experience” by virtue of working with the company founder.

Without knowing what training is offered, many of these posts appear to be for the benefit of the employer, not the intern. If true, this would violate the Ontario Employment Standards Act, making the intern look a lot more like an employee who would be subject to minimum wage laws.

One firm, seeking a “statistics guru” seems to have a clear project in mind that is for the benefit of the firm. No information on the learning portion or the benefit of the internship is provided, save: “we will provide an amazing letter of recommendation for any student that joins our project, even part-time.”

Action is needed to ensure that employers ascribe to a code of best practice for internships. But part of the problem of unpaid internships lies with university institutions that grant these roles legitimacy by posting them on their career sites. Students deserve better.

How many are unpaid positions are listed on your university career site? Email internsheep.canada@gmail.com if you attend a Canadian university, have access to your school’s student job listing page, and want to help compile a more clear picture of the problems young workers are facing gaining entry-level work.

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  1. This is what happens when there are 70,000 new grads in Ontario (not exact, just a guess).
    I’ve always been of the opinion that academic standards, not finances, should be the only deterrent from people attending institutions of higher learning; however, these same institutions have clearly shown that the dollar is the bottom line.

    Either way, there are too many companies who could afford to pay entry-level/minimum wages, yet still get away with the unpaid route just because they can.

  2. The cause of the problem is complex, and I agree that the inflation that we’ve seen in our universities is likely part of it.

    We need to mobilize a fight for legal protections for young workers. Employment should be protected, where possible, from a market economy that fluctuates dangerously on a supply-and-demand labour force.

    If you’ve got a story you want to share, feel free to email internsheep.canada@gmail.com. Stories can be anonymous. We need to start collecting data and stories that illustrate the extent of the problem.

  3. […] fall, internsheep posted about the amount of unpaid positions at York University and the University of Toronto, questioning whether universities, in presenting these dubious […]

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