Students in Humber’s Bachelor of Journalism degree program must complete 420 hours of internship to graduate, but students increasingly say they are struggling with finding a placement and ensuring they are able to continue paying the bills as they complete their hours.
Internships happen during the summer between the third and fourth year at Humber. The required hours must be completed before the beginning of the fall semester in order for students to be able to complete their degrees. The internship requirement is set by the Ministry of Education.
In addition to students having to find internships on their own, many internships in the industry are unpaid, including the prestigious CBC internship. According to the Living Wage Network, the living wage rate for the Greater Toronto Area is $25.05 per hour this year.
Cheryl Vallendar, a journalism professor and program coordinator at Sheridan College and a member of J-Schools Canada executive committee, believes students should get paid for their work.
“I don’t think a lot of people can afford to work for six weeks and not get paid, especially with the prices the way they are right now,” Vallendar said.
“People have to pay rent for groceries, transportation and sometimes students have to pay for transportation to get to work where they’re working for free. So you’re paying to go to work, which I think is just really unfair.”
In October of last year, J-Schools Canada released a statement on their commitment to ensuring paid placements, recognizing the impact this has on students and that action is needed in the current internship system.
Along with pay issues, many students have expressed frustration at the internship search system and the state of intern options in the journalism industry.
Kyle Drinnan, a Humber Journalism Degree student, said, “I’ve never received any personalized help. This program at Humber doesn’t really take into consideration how to help get your foot in the door.”
For Drinnan, the struggle was in the lack of guidance and support. He was in the dark regarding the options available.
“There needs to be communication and someone who actually cares about the student getting a job instead of just filling in a requirement. It feels like a checkmark instead of a pathway to our career,” he said.
Humber was not available for comment at press time.
According to Vallendar, to help open up access to opportunities and combat some of these student struggles, J-Schools Canada has created a database of media employers in the country that member schools have access to. Internship coordinators are able to download it and share it with students to aid their search.
She thinks that in addition to sharing opportunities with students and empowering them to advocate for themselves in the internship search, colleges should consider ways they can create opportunities for students.
More entrepreneurial Initiatives such as allowing students to earn placement hours for working on a passion project or pitching stories independently could be an option for J-Schools to consider moving forward.