Yesterday I was on CBC Radio’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi taking part in a debate about the state of unpaid internships. Specifically to speak about my positive experience as an unpaid intern in light of an article that I wrote which featured in the Vancouver Sun.
I was pitted against Eric Glatt, a former intern of Fox Searchlight who sued the company after he felt his internship was a form of exploitation more so than a learning opportunity.
Let me put myself on record stating that I'm not an advocate of exploiting interns or the abuse of free labour. In fact this has never been my position. I also must admit that I am not a labour lawyer or an expert on internship regulation. What I am however is an advocate of providing opportunity to those struggling to find their way, or perhaps value in their professional life.
I was asked to speak on my personal experience as an intern, a mentor, and how the intern controversy has affected small business in Canada. This I am more qualified to speak on than legalities, or statistics. I feel it is extremely important that we consider both sides of this argument in greater detail. Only then can we take progressive steps towards change, and have these changes firmly rooted in both the positive and negative experiences of unpaid internships.
L'esprit de l'escalier
As a first time debater arguing the perceived negative against a future lawyer who's been debating the state of internships for years, was I a bit nervous? Definitely, but I made the decision to do so based on the invaluable opportunity to get involved in the conversation and (hopefully) continue to push the dialogue towards a resolution.
I had the chance to give a voice to the positive experience that an unpaid internship can provide. This position clearly isn't the popular opinion, but I felt it was being drown out by the negative sentiment throughout the media.
Some points that I didn't get to that warrant further discussion:
The failure of institutions to bring practical application to the theory they teach
Competency as currency
Government policy on internships
Overall, it was a great experience and I want to thank the CBC, Jian, and Eric for the opportunity to take on this discussion.