Unpaid internships focus of concern

Ainsley Smith
Biz/Tech Reporter

Laurentian University student Samantha Bokma, 22, worked part-time as a constituency assistant for Barrie MPP Rod Jackson this past year and is now claiming that when her job abruptly ended in August, she was being replaced with an unpaid person.

Bokma’s complaint is the latest in a string of recent criticisms about unpaid internships in Ontario, often about poor experiences .

“Hearing that a number of Ontario students were unhappy with their placements and had taken legal action about how they were treated made me nervous to begin my internship this fall,” said Rachel Olson, 19, a second year Fashion Arts student.

“I wanted to have the best experience possible,” Olson said.

Last Tuesday, at a meeting at Queen’s Park, Jackson challenged some of Bokma’s previous claims, stating that she had resigned from her position early and had left the workplace disgruntled because there was no longer part-time work available past the summer and the company no longer had the budget.

For Humber students that are looking into internships, Sanjukta Das, Humber’s Business School placement advisor said students should always work for companies that require students to sign formal consent forms, employee and student agreement forms and even insurance forms.

“Humber internships are hands-on work experiences that help transition the student into the workplace,” said Das.
Das said one of her responsibilities at Humber is to help educate the employer on treating interns properly.

“If a student ever does feel uncomfortable or discouraged during their internship, they can come to me for help and support. I am also here to help educate the employer to ensure (a good experience),” said Das.

Bonice Large, 20, a second year Fashion Arts student, said that she heard about internship problems over the summer.

“Despite all of the negativity I was hearing about other students, my internship so far has been amazing. It has opened a number of doors for me and I have met so many great contacts,” said Large. “Entering into my position I had to sign a contract, so I was well aware I wouldn’t be paid and I was okay with that.”

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