Can Interns Really Gain Experience If They Are Working From Home?

Networking In Vancouver is currently advertising ‘Marketing” and “Editorial Producer” internships on their website. They’re looking for people who are “passionate about networking and business” and “looking for valuable experience to help [them] land a job in Vancouver”. Unfortunately the positions are, of course, unpaid. This is yet another case of companies in British Columbia targeting recent graduates with illegal internships.

The job description and requirements for the “Marketing Intern” are what you would expect and can be found in full here, but i’d like to point out some of the things about this ‘job’ posting that stuck out to me.

“As an MARKETER INTERN, all of your time will be spent working remotely”

Most defenders of unpaid internships are quick to highlight the value of working in an office and learning how a ‘real’ workplace operates. Unfortunately, Networking In Vancouver would prefer you work from home, so forget about gaining any ‘office experience’.

“THIS IS AN UNPAID INTERNSHIP that requires a passion for the online marketing, tireless hustle, attention to details and the ability to meet all deadlines. We require a minimum commitment of 15-20 hours per week. The duration of the internship is for 3 months (unpaid). Potential for an additional 3 month (paid) job extension that will be discussed with short-listed candidates.”

So first, if I’m not one of the lucky ‘short-listed candidates’ that worked the minimum 15-20 hours for 12 weeks a paid job will not be discussed with me and I will be sent on my way. Second, in the event I’ve worked hard enough to be one of these shot-listed candidates I’ll have the ‘potential’ for an additional 3 months of paid work.

Keep in mind, that doesn’t sound like a promotion, it sounds like I’ll be doing the same job as before but now i’ll be making money, which begs the question why wasn’t I being paid before? The first three months of this internship sound like a extended interview process, one that is unfair and unreasonable for people to put up with.

But surely I will be learning lots from this internship, there must be some value to spending 3 months unpaid at this company.

“Wondering about the benefits of working with Networking In Vancouver? Point blank – it is rare opportunity and unparalleled experience. This opportunity is a fully involved, learning by doing experience. You will be asked to take on critical tasks that directly contribute to the growth and success of Networking In Vancouver. You will also have the opportunity to attend some of the premier networking events in Vancouver as a representative of Networking In Vancouver.”

Besides the first two sentences which are essentially fluff, this unpaid internship will allow me to be ‘fully involved’ ‘attend networking events’ and ‘directly contribute to the growth and success of Networking In Vancouver.” Those do not sound like educational points, but rather things that employee’s do for companies – typically for pay. Apparently, my work will be directly contributing to the growth of the company, yet I will be gaining next to nothing in exchange.

Honestly, this does sound like an interesting internship and I’m sure someone looking for a career in online and social media would gain some value from it. However, if you take a look at the British Columbia Employment Standard Act you’ll find out quickly that this internship is in all respects illegal.The Marketing Intern at Networking In Vancouver would be doing work that without question entitles them to minimum wage in British Columbia.

In their defense, Networking In Vancouver did mention that if you’d like to use their internship for college credit they’d be happy to make that happen and that would indeed help make this internship legal under British Columbia employment law. However, unless you’re getting some college/university credit this internship is not worth your while and is a cheap trick to get some of their web and social media work done for free.

These internships are part of a growing trend that undervalues the skills of young people and particularly skills in social media. Prospective interns, focus on finding positions where you can gain actual experience in a working environment and make clear at the outset of your internship what your expectations are. What will you be learning, for how long and what is expected of you are important questions to ask. These will help to ensure that you’re not being taken advantage of.

The Canadian Intern Association is calling on Networking In Vancouver to comply with provincial law by either providing the minimum wage to their interns or creating educational internships for academic credit.

-Adam Seaborn

Adam Seaborn is Film & Media student at Queen’s University in Ontario and a member of the Canadian Intern Association executive. He is currently seeking employment following his graduation.

 

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