Pay Your Interns summit puts internships in the spotlight
“Intern is still a term in search of a definition,” said Ross Perlin, an author of Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy and a guest speaker at Pay Your Interns! 2016 spring summit.
Director Cynthia H. Pandev’s debut film Pay Your Interns! opened the summit and covered all aspects of internships. People talked about the most common fields and industries that usually hire interns, like the arts, nutrition and nursing.
Women’s role was especially highlighted in the film, as it argues that women tend to take unpaid positions more often. The vague differences between a volunteer, an employee and an intern were also touched on in the documentary, sparking a live discussion at the event.
“It’s 2016–stop undermining the work of women,” said Schenella Pinto, the director of research and labour policy at Canadian Intern Association.
Pinto spoke about the history of internships, saying the discussion around it has expanded significantly in the last five years as the concept has gone as far as “auctions for internships” where not only do people want to work for a particular company, but also are willing to pay to get the position.
Internships as part of the education process is another side of the coin. Although it is clear schools want to establish better relationships with employers and companies, “having walls of shame is important”, said Perlin, pointing to the Canadian Intern Association’s website that lists particularly egregious examples of unpaid internships.
Lack of clear regulations on internships is the biggest problem said lawyer Andrew Langille pointing to it as an area for the Liberal government to look into.
In its 2015 budget, the Harper government changed the Canadian Labour Code to ensure that interns under federal jurisdiction were subject to basic safety standards, and to “clarify the circumstances under which unpaid internships could be offered.”