According to Statistics Canada, half of the college students aged 17-24 hold a job and in 2015 the average Canadian post-secondary graduate had $30,000 in student debt at graduation. Though unpaid internships are illegal in Ontario, some employers exploit the loophole of unpaid internships for school credit, putting students in an increasingly financial bind.
As a founding member of the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms (CCPRF), we at APEX understand the importance of investing in young talent and feel strongly that it is only ethical to pay for the services and value interns bring to our teams and clients.
“Student interns are genuine employees and members of our team, bringing tangible value to our business and as such deserve to be remunerated accordingly,” says Linda Andross, managing partner at APEX Public Relations and ruckus Digital.
Read on for three reasons why paid internships shouldn’t even be debatable in 2021.
- Happy employees make the best PR practitioners
As communicators, we market ourselves as experts in building and maintaining relationships. Quality relationship building starts in-house. Employees should feel valued and respected at all levels of the organization. If you end up churning out stressed out, underpaid interns, the world will hear it and your reputation as an employer among current and future employees will suffer.
On the flip-side, hiring interns who you make feel valued through adequate pay and well thought out mentorship programs will be sure to tell all their friends, professors and future bosses what a great environment you’ve developed.
- More engaged employees
Employees at PR agencies work hard and many PR agencies are located in central locations like Toronto or Vancouver, where entry-level professionals often struggle to afford to live. Add student loans into the mix and many entry-level professionals are unable to afford an unpaid internship unless they hold a part-time job on the side.
Imagine working a full-time unpaid internship and holding a part-time minimum wage job at $14.25/hour in a city where the living wage is $22.08/hour in an attempt to make ends meet. Is this going to add up to employees who can bring their best energy and focus to work for you every day?
Unpaid internships reinforce a perception that recent graduates are not worthy of being treated as “professionals” who have the ability to positively contribute to your agency. Paid internships encourage these talented professionals to focus on their work for you and share their most creative ideas because they feel valued and have limited distractions from financial stressors.
- Paid internships increase DEI in the field
Over the last couple of years, there has been a push towards increasing diversity in the field of public relations with agencies investing in developing hiring practices leading to more diverse teams. Offering paid internships is one of the best ways to encourage people from marginalized groups to apply. It helps level the playing field for groups who do not have the privilege to build their resumes through unpaid internships and are unlikely to have strong connections when starting out in a field where connections are touted as one of the top ways to get job opportunities. Increasing the number of paid internships in the field will open doors for people who would have liked to pursue a career in public relations but simply could not afford the start-up cost in this field.
We encourage our peers in the industry to develop paid internship programs nurturing talent and acknowledging the contributions these entry-level professionals make to our organizations. Join The Canadian Public Relations Society’s call to end the practice of unpaid internships in the public relations industry!
To learn more about how APEX PR or ruckusDigital can help build your brand or tell your brand story, Bigger@apexpr.com. For more info on our internship program, send your resume to HR@apexpr.com