By: Sophie Hunt
No one knows the value of money quite so poignantly as a recent university graduate. With a drastic rise in student debt, as well as seemingly unnecessary tuition increases, one would think that having the opportunity to acquire job experience while receiving a paycheque would be ideal for a student with a recent degree and nothing left to do but find the perfect job in their field of study.
According to Stephen Poloz, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, volunteering and unpaid internships are the way to go if you’re fresh out of school and unable to find work in your chosen profession. While this idea may seem completely reasonable to a person making six figures in the business world, the reality is a lot more complex than simply working for free in order to fill the gaps on a resume.
Poloz advocates that young people looking to acquire paid work should start out by working in unpaid positions. As he stated in a speech he delivered to a House of Commons committee, “volunteer to do something which is at least somewhat related to your expertise so it is clear that you are gaining some learning experience during that period.” The period that he is referring to is the time in between finishing school and starting a career, a time when, according to him, youth are presumably taking up space in their parents’ basement. He went on to say, “if your parents are letting you live in the basement, you might as well go out and do something for free to put the experience on your CV.”
What Poloz fails to remember is the importance of money, which is ironic considering he is basically in charge of Canada’s economy. While gaining experience in a chosen field is helpful, expecting young people to work for free for an extended period of time is unrealistic. The future of the economy rests on the heads of these young people trying to find a place in the work force. Telling young people that they should be working for free is irrational, and benefits no one other than the higher-ups looking to save a quick buck at the expense of the more vulnerable.
Poloz also does not take into account that many young people simply cannot afford to work for free. Young people without the means to work without pay miss out on the opportunity to gain this supposedly valuable experience. Poloz’s comments work within the elitist idea that all young people have the financial stability to sacrifice paid jobs for unpaid experience.
Also, assuming that all young people without jobs are simply taking up space on the couch in their parents’ basement is presumptuous and damaging. Poloz’s poorly made remarks completely discredit the work that many young people are doing in order to establish themselves within their chosen field. The reason young people may still be living with their parents has little to do with what Poloz assumes are half-hearted attempts to find work. With a highly competitive job market, a lack of job opportunities, and student debt, many young graduates cannot afford to live on their own. Telling these young people that all they have to do is get off the couch and find unpaid work is not the real issue, which is something that Poloz and other highly paid business leaders fail to realize.
We should not encourage young people to land unpaid jobs. Not only do they need money in order to become functioning members of society, but paying someone for the work that they do should be considered common decency. Why are major companies not offering paid positions to young people looking for work once they are done school? Why are these companies so concerned with having to pay for the work that young people can provide for their companies? “Work experience” should be a result of, not an alternative to, paid work. There is a flaw in the system that needs to be addressed, and volunteer work and unpaid internships are not the answer.