Fixing bad internships with a new committee

This isn't Dexter's kill room, it's Krista Brown's fashion week internship. (Courtesy Krista Brown)

This isn’t Dexter’s kill room, it’s Krista Brown’s fashion week internship. (Courtesy Krista Brown)

By Julia Mohamed

After 11 internships and one gig cleaning up a bloody sheep’s brain and pig’s heart with her bare hands, Krista Brown got fed up with bad unpaid internships.

Brown found herself elbow deep in barnyard animal bits, incongruously, while interning for a jewelry show that was part of New York City Fashion Week. She left the internship earlier than planned.

“After, I went to them and said … you really don’t need to be treating me like this because I am an intern,” she said.

That’s why the third-year graphic communications management (GCM) student is starting a committee to ensure better internships for both students and employers.

The Faculty of Communication and Design Internship Committee (FCADIC) is designed for senior students looking for internships.

It is not officially affiliated with the faculty or the school.

So far, six other GCM students have joined Brown’s committee. She wants to reach out to more students and other programs in the faculty.

The committee is planning an information session, but has not released a date yet. FCADIC is also working on a website and a Facebook page, but in the meantime students can connect with the committee on Twitter.

Ontario law states in order for unpaid work to be legal, it must be “for the benefit of the intern.” The ministry of labour laws also states the employer should derive “little, if any, benefit from the activity of the intern.”

In all, the ministry has six requirements for legal unpaid work.

Unpaid internships have become a common stop-gap measure for young graduates who may struggle to find full-time, paid work.

Last year, the unemployment rate was 14 per cent for those under 25 years of age compared to six per cent for those over 25, according to Statistics Canada.

That’s partly why Brown thinks now is the time to start a committee.

She also believes some students and employers utilizing internships aren’t aware of the rights that exist regarding free labour.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on October 9, 2013.

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