An essay by Zane Schwartz in The Globe's education section on how many of his friends are working at unpaid internships has generated many comments from readers. He makes the argument that while they may be good for someone looking to build a résumé and they are good for employers who get free labour, they are bad for society as a whole.
"Unpaid internships skew the job market, so it is the wealthiest, not the most qualified, who are able to apply. To work without pay requires other sources of income, either from parents, or by working another job," he writes.
Several readers wondered about The Globe and Mail practices.
Jim Sheppard is the executive editor of globeandmail.com and the co-ordinator of both of The Globe's intern programs. He says the summer internship or vacation-replacement program, for which The Globe hires both experienced journalists and graduating students, is a key proving ground for these young reporters, editors and digital specialists who want to land a regular job at The Globe or its digital products.
"We get more than 500 applicants for the summer program and we have fewer than 20 positions available on it every year," Mr. Sheppard notes. "So we put considerable effort into finding the best and brightest people across Canada, the United States and in some cases around the world. It's one of the primary ways we assess new talent in making hiring decisions."
The journalists who work in the summer are paid the union salary for their positions as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement. While some are recent graduates, The Globe also hires more experienced people for some of the summer positions.
During the school year, The Globe and Mail also has what is called a work-study program. Many university journalism programs require their students to receive anywhere from two to six weeks of on-the-job training and work as part of their graduation requirements. The Globe works with various schools on this program and pays the students an honorarium.
"We apply the same approach to hiring for the academic-year internship program," Mr. Sheppard says. "We work with the schools' internship co-ordinators and professors to identify their best and brightest students. While here, they get a full chance to demonstrate their reporting, editing and multimedia skills, and to learn how to apply in the real world what they have been taught in the classroom. It's a win-win situation. The students almost invariably tell us that they learned a lot while here. In return, we get the opportunity to vet in a real newsroom setting students who can move on to the summer program or other work for us."
Many of the permanent employees of The Globe and Mail started either on the work-study program or the summer internship program.
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