The Humber Students’ Federation (HSF) is researching methods to subsidize the unpaid internships for students at Humber College.
Aside from unpaid internships being an ongoing discussion in the media, students and industry professionals are putting the heat on employers and post-secondary schools to get involved.
“Students have a hard enough time finding internships,” says Ercole Perrone, executive director at HSF and one of the leads in facilitating the new subsidizing plan.
After receiving successful feedback from conducting a focus group with part-time HSF staff and the University of Guelph-Humber Students Association, the board of directors gave them the ‘okay’ to move forward.
Now in the early stages of compiling data, they are researching how many students need to complete internships for graduation and what the duration of those placements are.
But the main issue still stands - where will they get the money?
The main idea is to use their financial flexibility accompanied by any input of companies interning students. The only concern from Perrone is that companies will start to rely on Humber to provide most or all of the subsidizing.
“Unfortunately, unpaid internships have become an ongoing hiring practice,” says Fredy Mejia, a career advisor at Humber. “It is unethical because it is a moral obligation to give profit to support the student.”
Affording to live and maintain basic expenses is a worry amongst post-secondary students who need to complete a mandatory internship in order to graduate.
“I think [unpaid internships] are outdated and unfair,” says Christina Webber, third-year public relations student who will complete her 14-week internship this upcoming summer. “No one can afford to work for free.”
Although Webber says she would work for free for her dream company, Majia believes students should not be exploited by their favourite companies in order to have a big name on their resume.
“We worry about branding that won’t necessarily provide us with opportunities to learn and grow,” says Majia. “The real value of an internship is not valued by the brand name, it’s valued by the day-to-day activities.”
This is where the HSF subsidizing may come handy to those students who still choose to get placements in brand name companies.
“There’s a fine balance between filling a void but also providing students a good work experience,” says Perrone.
Perrone says that with their financial flexibility and the right company connections they hope this idea can come into fruition if approved by the HSF board of directors.