OPINION: I want to intern this summer — but I’m broke.

by | Apr 22, 2019 | Opinion

Elesha Nicholls Life Reporter

As school comes to an end many returning students are figuring out what they will do with their four-month-long summer. Some students plan on traveling to a tropical destination, binge-watching their favourite shows and catching up on sleep.

Other students like myself are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Can we afford to work full time and take on an unpaid internship this summer?  

For second-year students like myself who are going into our final year, we are starting to think more about networking with industry professionals, landing a great internship, and hopefully getting hired after graduation.

Summer is the best time to intern because you’re able to focus solely on your intern duties, while not being overwhelmed by the crazy workload your classes during the school year. 

Jermaine Nelson, a second year mechanical engineering student at Humber, hopes to land a job that pays. (Elesha Nicholls)

However, summer is the only time a student, like myself, can work full time and earn money that will sustain me not only through the summer but for the upcoming school year as well.

An internship that usually runs during business hours and would conflict with a full-time job. Or in my case, the two part-time jobs that take up most of my day.

Why do I have to miss out on making the most of my summer because I’m, dare I say it, broke.  

In my third year, we have a chance to do an unpaid internship, so it’s not like summer is the end all be all for my internship. But when you take into account the years of experience companies ask for after leaving post-secondary school, I’d be behind. That is exactly why I want to start interning now.  

I spoke to students at Humber College who were In the same boat as I am, such as mechanical engineering student Jermaine Nelson, who voiced his concern on his future.  

“I plan on working full time this summer but I really need that knowledge and experience that interning gives,” Nelson said. “At the same time, my cost of living and paying for school would get in the way of all that. 

“So working for free is not an option for me. Living isn’t free so money is needed,” he said.

With Premier Doug Ford taking away money from post-secondary education such as turning free grants into loans it’s hard to say what schools could do for the students willing to sacrifice their summer.

Special bursaries or scholarships would definitely help take the load off our backs and allow us to intern during the summer. But where would these funds come from? These changes put us in what seems like an endless loop of financial despair.

Unpaid internships in Ontario are only legal if its backed by an institution, meaning companies would have to pay a student for their time during the summer. If schools created a special summer internship program it would allow companies to create more internship positions and take on even more students.

My advice to students who aren’t able to intern for free this summer is to start your own project. For me, that will be relaunching the podcast I created last year and producing a webisode series for YouTube. 

Whatever you end up doing this summer, just make it count and come back stronger in September.