It is estimated that as many as 300,000 young Canadians work as unpaid interns, and there are moves being made to regulate the practice as it affects university students.
An NDP Member of Parliament has introduced a private member’s bill aimed at curbing abuses, and the University of Toronto’s Student Union wants to see all unpaid internships banned.
Many small businesses and non-profits simply can’t afford to pay the interns, and they do provide students with valuable work experience.
Rather than forbidding unpaid internships, governments should push universities to develop reasonable policies to protect the students.
Students should be allowed to choose their hours and the employer should be required to pay transportation costs.
Some universities might help the employer fund a student’s wages or reduce student fees while the student is working as an unpaid intern.
Universities also need to develop protocols for students who may be taken advantage of in the workplace.
Students should know that they need not suffer abuse in these situations to receive academic credits.
Whatever policies are put in place, universities must be transparent to ensure that students know what to expect.
Governments provide universities with the largest portion of their funding, so they have a responsibility to ensure that universities protect their students who are involved in internships.
I’m Roger Currie. Join us again next week for more thoughts on the Frontier.
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