Internships have changed the way businesses attract and recruit talent, fundamentally replacing the entry-level jobs of yesteryear. This changing landscape inspired our most recent workshop, InternSHIFT, an informative and interactive discussion held earlier this month at the 2015 CACEE National Conference in Ottawa. Through this Town Hall Meeting style session, Naguib Gouda, President of Career Edge, led conference delegates through the changing internship landscape, while exploring how paid internships contribute to our economy and social infrastructure.
For those who were unable to attend the conference, we have assembled the key highlights from InternSHIFT below, starting with a quick pop quiz.
History of Internships
Do you know where internships originated? Take our quiz to find out.
Now, internships have expanded to nearly all professions, as those who are new to the workforce strive to gain work experience that is aligned with their education and career aspirations.
Risking Socio-Economic Sustainability
For many, the process of transitioning from school to work, or re-launching a career in a new country is laden with barriers. Those who face greater barriers to employment, such as recent graduates – including those with disabilities – and new immigrants, often get caught in a cycle of precarious employment, such as part-time work, unpaid internships and temporary contracts.
A continuous cycle of precarious employment has consequences, such as a weakened social infrastructure as a result of lower income tax collection rates, and a diminished ability to compete in the global marketplace due to a stagnant, rather than dynamic and innovative workforce.
Protecting Interns’ Rights
Unpaid internships have been described as the most extreme version of precarious employment, as interns are not paid for the work they do. Despite the lack of remuneration, unpaid internships in certain industries (e.g., media, fashion, etc.) and with leading employers have become extremely competitive as candidates desperately seek opportunities to gain experience in their chosen field.
This is concerning, as many unpaid internship opportunities are restricted to those who can afford to work for free. This systematically eliminates opportunities to those from lower socio-economic brackets, unless they take an unpaid internship while also working in part-time to low paying jobs, just to survive and make ends meet. They do so risking their health, safety, and socio-economic wellbeing, often with very little returns in the way of career advancement.
Fortunately, Canada’s federal government has made a commitment to strengthen labour laws, in order to protect interns’ rights and to promote equal access to employment.
Internships that have the right employment standards (including minimum wage) give participants a chance to gain hands-on, real-world work experience – much like the original physicians-in-training mentioned earlier – so that they can overcome employment barriers, and become taxpayers, not tax burdens.
We believe that this shift in the way we think about internships will ultimately support our social infrastructure and economic performance in the long-term. Internships give employers the chance to leverage internships as a low risk, cost-effective talent acquisition solution, while acting as a tried and true formula for launching careers.