Internships provide people with the opportunity to explore a new career and students to gain hands-on experience and improve their marketability. They provide a springboard to learning professional judgment and understanding how a workplace operates. Learning from colleagues and networking with those more established in the industry helps make sense out of the theory.
In Canada, it is illegal to hire an intern and pay them less than minimum wage. However, a student intern that meets certain conditions can be engaged by a company and not paid. Toronto labour lawyer Andrew Langille estimates that there are up to 750,000 unpaid internships across Canada.
Although internships are highly valued in the job market, research shows that 43% of internships by for-profit companies are unpaid. Internships that are unpaid, or provide honorariums that equate to less than a minimum wage, are barriers to entry for students from low-income backgrounds, newcomers to Canada, and those in other stages of life making it untenable to take an unpaid position. Thus, these unpaid student internships reinforce a system that creates inequities and reduces diversity in the industry.
According to Joshua Kahn, Assistant Director of Research and Public Policy at NACE, statistically significant disparities in race, gender, and parental education were discovered in the 2019 survey across 470 member colleges and universities. Kahn concludes that paid internships are disproportionately awarded to white, male students with college degrees whose parents have also attended college.
The ICA supports Future Agency Talent and in collaboration with Centennial College Public Relations Students, encourages Agencies Leaders to #PayYourInterns. Join us in spreading the word about the value of paid internships and encourage Inclusion, Diversity, & Equity in Advertising.