Internships: A Two-Way Street

By: Gwera Kiwana

Some people work for fame; some work for the money; interns work for experience. The intern experience can be one filled with uncertainty, empty pockets and a whole lot of learning.


Benefits of Being an Intern

Choosing the internship path can be seen as a stepping stone to the right career as interns are introduced to the working world on a temporary basis. Some benefits of being an intern include:

  • Gain valuable work experience within your chosen industry
  • Transition into a job/career from experience and networked contacts
  • Gain industry knowledge through access to individuals and operations from the workplace
  • In some cases, gain a university or college credit
  • Positive rub-off effect: Being around driven, hardworking adults can affect your work ethic and attitude towards work
  • Learn what you may not want to be doing. If you do not enjoy your internship, you will better understand what you will enjoy!
  • Improve confidence and skill set

If conducted in the proper manner, internships can be useful and can benefit both the organization and the intern. Toronto-based labour lawyer, Andrew Langille, believes that Canada’s workforce employs less than 300,000 interns per year. Businesses commonly opt for unpaid interns to save money and provide eager individuals with the opportunity to learn and be immersed in a real working environment. Some benefits of offering an internship include:

Benefits of Offering an Internship

  • Offers a cost-effective program for recruiting highly qualified and motivated students to meet the company needs
  • Provides well-prepared short-term employees to assist current employees, so they have the opportunity to pursue higher projects
  • Fulfill a civic and professional responsibility by providing students with real work experience
  • Offers a low-cost method of training potential future employees
  • Helps to identify potential future hires, creating a pipeline for candidates
  • Provides an opportunity for supervisory experience for developing employees
  • Provides the organization with potential for fresh ideas
  • Builds relationship with local colleges and universities

What is the law in Ontario?

The Canadian Intern Association was created to increase awareness on issues surrounding interns across Canada. If an organization sets out to provide an unpaid internship, the following criteria must be met in Ontario:

  • The training is similar to that which is given in a vocational school
  • The training is for the benefit of the individual
  • The person providing the training derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the individual while he or she is being trained
  • The individual does not displace employees of the person providing the training
  • The individual is not accorded a right to become an employee of the person providing the training
  • The individual is advised that he or she will receive no remuneration for the time that he or she spends in training

A Note to Interns

An internship is not a right. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your internship:

  • Be present
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new
  • Respect the work environment and conduct yourself with professionalism
  • Become aware of your rights as an intern
  • Outline your intended outcomes and goals. Make them realistic and measurable. (Enhance specific skills, networking, learn more about the industry)
  • If you’re in school, always put your academic needs first!

With the growing number of entry level jobs requiring prior experience, internships are an ideal means by which a student can gain the experience needed to launch into a career after school. Every intern should enter an internship with measurable goals and objectives of what they’d like to gain from their opportunity. Interns should also equip themselves with knowledge of what is legal and have an idea what their rights are. Overall, the opportunity of an internship provides you with one of the most highly sought out qualities when applying for a job; experience.

Gwera is  the president of the University of Toronto Mississauga ICCIT Council, a student led academic society. Gwera’s interests are rooted in technology, social change, management and innovation. She aims to work within the digital innovation and technology sector, doing business development in Africa.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal and professional experiences. Visit Altitude Accelerator for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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