Most of us have taken – or know someone who has taken an internship for course credit. That’s because internships hit a real boom after the 2008 economic crash, suggesting that they’re one more way to privatize learning. Unpaid internships, specifically, download the pressure of getting a good education onto the individual while taking that pressure off of the government and the employer.
Students are expected to achieve more than ever, with our time and energy split between coursework, internships, and paid work. Those of us from families with enough money to support us are well-placed to take intensive unpaid internships, but there are often fewer possibilities for those of us who are women, low-income students, and students from diverse minority backgrounds.
Most unpaid interns work in traditionally feminized fields (think: education, communications, or social work). That’s because our society tends to undervalue labour that is seen as “women’s work – hence the wage gap. The stats show:
- when a lot of women enter traditionally male-dominated fields, the pay declines (ex. biology) and,
- when men enter traditionally female-dominated fields, the pay increases (ex. computer programming)!
Interns launch into the workforce to gain skills and experience. We ask:
- Are we learning?
- And are we more employable after working for free?
Well ,currently there is no standardized method of evaluating internships. Some university departments provide lots of support, ensuring students gain valuable experience, & other departments leave students to fend for themselves.
And as it turns out, according to research, employers invest more mentorship time into paid interns than unpaid students. And, paid interns transition more quickly into the workforce!
(adapted from CSU campaign webpage)
Since 2015, an International Interns’ Day has taken place. The InternsGoPro platform and the European Youth Forum launched this recurring event in order to highlight the plight of interns and work towards solutions to better salaries and working conditions for them. A lot of groups have joined them since, which have joined to form the Global Intern Coalition (GIC).
Regional Coalitions for the Win!
This website has been published by the Montreal Coalition for Paid Internships. Most of its organizations don’t have quite the same profile as those in the GIC: while these tend to be dedicated interns groups, we mostly are activists in student unions, regular unions and feminist and community groups, all affected by the unpaid internships issue one way or another. Working with GIC and other partners, we intend on effecting significant change in how internship work is valued in our societies.
To this end, neither international nor national networking can alone suffice: sustained, grassroots mobilization efforts are required to force politicians’ hands. The Montreal regional coalition is the first of many more to come in this regard, and we can help setting one up in your area. We are confident this whole mesh of organizing (regional, national, international) will make our actions and strategies more impactful in the years to come. All work deserves salary!