Internships: friend or foe?

Three contributors discuss ArtSci degrees and Queen’s career services

Kevin Donaldson (left), Emily Lewis (centre) and Aleksandra Popovik discuss the possibility of more internship opportunities at Queen’s.
Kevin Donaldson (left), Emily Lewis (centre) and Aleksandra Popovik discuss the possibility of more internship opportunities at Queen’s.
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Career Development

Aleksandra Popovik, ArtSci ’17

There’s a certain stigma attached to graduating with an Arts and Science degree.

This reputation is centred on the perception that these students won’t have ample job opportunities after graduation. While studying liberal arts is worthwhile due to its emphasis on critical thinking, research and writing skills, applying the degree to a future career can be daunting.

To help smooth the transition from school life to work life, the Faculty of Arts and Science should offer and advertise internship opportunities pertaining to students’ fields of study and focus on preparing students for careers before they leave Queen’s.

The faculty should place a greater focus on providing students with career development information, by hosting seminars and disseminating written material about internships.

Queen’s offers some support for Arts and Science students in building skills employers might want, but it could do more.

Career Services offers drop-in career advising and coordinates events and workshops, including the Summer Job Fair held annually in the ARC. These are catered to helping students navigate the job market.

But those jobs are mainly geared towards temporary work that may not help students advance in their desired careers.

Career development seminars that relate to each Arts and Science major could help Arts and Science students making informed decisions about their career, further education and employment goals.

Career Services could let students know these seminars are available through email or social media, and their employees could lead these workshops for interested students based on demand.

Providing students with information about internship opportunities specific to their program of study, would help direct students towards potential career goals. A more aggressive career counselling presence would help link students with prospective employers. Members of Queen’s Student Alumni Association could be paired with current students as part of a mentorship program.

Along with these opportunities at Queen’s, students should be proactive in setting goals for their own future.

Students could contact their faculty head and ask if any professors are interested in having students work with them in the summer.

The best way to demonstrate value as a prospective intern or employee is to not only rack up “resume” skills, but to also pay attention to personal skills an employer could see as unique — a second language, time spent abroad or management experience, among others.

Students should have more career resources, but it’s ultimately up to them to start knocking on doors for opportunities.

Aleksandra Popovik is a second-year political studies major and economics minor.

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Don't Work for Free

Kevin Donaldson, ArtSci ’17

Back in the 1970s, my father got a job out of high school at McLeod Young Weir Limited, a major brokerage firm in Toronto.

My dad became employed without any real finance experience, and was paid while he was trained to do it.

Today, though, jobs in the field a student wants to pursue can seem scarce — even with an undergraduate degree.

In October, Canada’s youth unemployment rate was at 13 per cent, double the national average. Young workers trapped in low-paying or part-time jobs that don’t match their qualifications doubled the youth unemployment rate.

Students that graduate from a social science or humanities program are “out of demand” to employers, according to a 2013 CIBC World Markets report. It seems the job market isn’t as hungry for workers armed with liberal arts degrees.

Understanding all of this, it sounds like internships and co-op programs would be a great addition to the Faculty of Arts and Science. But this would only expose students to labour without pay. In the end, time matters the most — and an internship would be a waste of it.

Companies directly benefit off of your desperation for experience. Students are exploited, used and not paid a cent for their time.

In Canada, interns are often overworked with little to no pay on the basis of gaining invaluable experience. Between 100,000-300,000 Canadians work without pay, according to a 2013 CBC report.

The legal regulations surrounding unpaid work in Canada are vague, leaving room for interpretation. Employers are supposed to receive little benefit from the intern, as the student is considered to be “training”.

This isn’t always the case, as internships are often advertised as a legitimate opportunity to do real work that will ultimately benefit the company. There’s also the possibility the intern could be taken on in the place of hiring full-time employees who’d be paid a full salary.

The purpose of a liberal arts degree is to learn to be critical of the greater society around us.

It teaches students how to expose and demonstrate flaws in our society, and to deconstruct how beautiful and horrifying the world is. As liberal arts students, we learn to criticize society, and not to carry the slippers of corporate bosses.

I believe we should boycott internships, as they exist primarily to benefit businesses that don’t need anyone’s help, and to take advantage of students who are willing to work for free.

Queen’s should focus its career development efforts on hosting speakers and holding networking events, which would allow students to build connections without having to push paper for months on end.

An internship program at Queen’s may seem beneficial at first. But it will only grow the pool of free labour that Bay St. gets to dip its hands into.

Kevin Donaldson is a second-year global development studies major.

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Paid Experience

Emily Lewis, ArtSci ’16

Students often look to gain practical, marketable skills due to the looming prospect of entering a competitive job market.

Internship programs can help undergraduate students stand out and develop skills that supplement their degree plan, like managing budgets, analyzing data, organizing and managing research projects and much more.

The University and its faculties need to create and emphasize the option of internships — beyond the Queen’s Undergraduate Internship Program (QUIP) — in order for students to seize these opportunities.

The Faculty of Arts and Science, in particular, would benefit from these programs, as it would mould more competitive graduates and future alumni. Current students would be better prepared to enter the workforce, and future students may be enticed by the prospect of gaining practical workplace experience as they complete their degree.

Queen’s currently offers some opportunities to gain skills outside the classroom. QUIP offers paid work experience over a period of 12-16 months. In comparison to a four-month co-op position, students in QUIP are able to engage in projects that require a long-term commitment, and are immersed into the workplace as if they’re an entry-level employee.

These students can develop software, become an equipment diagnostic technician or work as a global operations systems associate, among other potential jobs.

Within the Faculty of Arts and Science, QUIP students are eligible to receive credit equivalent to that of an independent study course, if they’re approved by the associate dean of studies and if a faculty member agrees to supervise their work.

If students have the opportunity to receive academic credit and acquire a paid internship, it’s strange that QUIP has only produced “over 900 interns since 1989”, according to their website. This is approximately 34 students engaging in QUIP per year.

QUIP may be less appealing than Queen’s work-study programs, which allow students to complete their degree in four years. QUIP requires students to take an extra year of school.

If QUIP was restructured to make the time commitment more flexible, it could become more accessible to students and produce more interns.

These types of programs are also an opportunity to entice future students.

When I was volunteering as a Queen’s ambassador at the Ontario Universities’ Fair in September, students often approached me to inquire about mandatory co-op placements or the availability of internships.

The lack of placements and promotion of internships seemed to disappoint many potential candidates. If promoted adequately, internships and department-specific work-study placements could become a key factor in marketing the University.

The Faculty of Arts and Science needs to focus on promoting a conception of academia that goes beyond higher learning. They should provide students with practical skills in order to produce competitive graduates.

With career-specific experience enhancing their degrees, graduates can more readily integrate into their desired industry.

Emily Lewis is a third-year global development studies major.

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