CACEE Statement on Unpaid Internships

1. Introduction:

Unpaid internships have been a topic of much discussion in the media as well as on various campuses across Canada and North America.  The CACEE Ethics Committee has put forth the following position statement on this issue for the CACEE membership.  The purpose of this position statement is to offer some guidance to Career Educators on criteria against which to measure unpaid internships. 

This position statement addresses unpaid internships that are not affiliated with an academic program for credit at a college of applied arts and technology or a university.

2. What can be considered an Internship?

  • An experiential opportunity integrating knowledge gained in the classroom to an employment setting
  • Has a defined start and end date and includes a job description
  • Has clearly identified objectives and outcomes related to the student’s field of study
  • The student’s work is supervised by a qualified professional and feedback is shared with the student on a regular or ongoing basis
  • The employer provides equipment, resources and facilities to support the learning objectives/goals
  • Includes a reflection and evaluation process at the conclusion of the internship

3. Suggested criteria to determine if an Unpaid Internship is legitimate

The regulation of employment in Canada is a provincial responsibility, with each Province having its own legislation to regulate paid employment relationships between employees and employers.  Unpaid internships are largely unregulated in Canada. 

CACEE recommends that an unpaid internship be considered legitimate if it meets the following  criteria:

  1. The training is similar to field-specific or applied training that can be found at a post secondary institution.
  2. The training is for the benefit of the intern.
  3. The organization providing the training derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the intern while he or she is being trained.
  4. The intern does not displace employees of the organization providing the training.
  5. The intern is not accorded a right to become an employee of the organization providing the training.
  6. The intern is advised that he or she will receive no remuneration for the time that he or she spends in training.
  7. The skills and/or experience gained must be transferable to other employment settings.
  8. There are clearly defined and articulated learning outcomes for the intern to realize by the conclusion of the internship.
  9. Regular supervision is given by a professional pertinent to the internship.
  10. Internships must be for a defined period of time.

4. Conclusion

The aim of this position statement is to offer guidance to the CACEE membership on how to assess unpaid internships.  CACEE recommends that Career Centre’s do not advertise positions as unpaid internships unless they meet the criteria specified in this position statement.  Based on this, Career Centre’s need to establish criteria as to what they will and will not accept on their campuses.