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CBC's Jordan Jackle. Photo by Evan Radford.

After earning a film degree from the University of Regina, Jung Seok Seo was anxious to bust into the industry. He moved to Toronto in 2009 and took an unpaid internship in post-production at an ad agency. He aspired to become an editor but, as he says, instead felt like an “office slave.”

The Ontario-based lobby group Canadian Intern Association formed in 2012 because of the growing acceptance of unpaid internships across Canada. Comprised of current and recent university students, the group advocates for paid internships across Canada.

In Saskatchewan, unpaid internships are built into the curriculum of the U of R’s education program.

Soren Nostbakken is a graduate of the program, interning in the fall of 2008 for four months.

The Saskatoon-based high school teacher regards the internship as invaluable to his current work, teaching history and urban planning at Bedford Road Collegiate.

But he still regards not getting paid while on internship as the one downside to the program.

“That was a tough pill for me to swallow. I thought, ‘Here I am, working for free, but also paying tuition that would normally cover instructor fees.’ So I wasn’t quite sure, and there was really no explanation as to why we were still required to pay that extra tuition for school," he said.

“Not that I was really resentful. But now that I’m paying off my student loans, it would have been nice to have a reprieve for at least a semester."

One of Regina’s popular TV personalities speaks to the importance of paid internships.

Molly Thomas graduated from the U of R’s journalism program, completing two separate four-month, paid internships.

Intern KentMorrisonThomas hosts CTV’s daily Morning Live show. “Even though the amount earned is not a lot, it’s a helping hand," she said. More importantly, “that money tells the students that you value their work. That you consider them part of the team. I don’t want to go to an internship where I’m just taking coffee to the anchors. I could have probably done that in high school.”

Thomas said this affirmation helped her decide to return to CTV to take the full-time host position.

Pamela Adames graduated from the U of R’s education program in December 2013.

Currently on contract with the Prairie Valley School Division, Adames agrees with Nostbakken: not receiving pay while an intern was the hardest part of the experience, even though her internship led directly to her current job.

“When you have to pay full tuition for five classes, on top of not getting paid for four months, it really is hard on your bank account,” Adames said.

The response she received from education faculty when voicing those concerns was equally discouraging. “When it came to (paying) tuition, I didn’t understand why we had to pay full tuition,” she said. Education faculty told Adames tuition covered faculty advisors, whose main role is to observe the intern three or four times while on internship.

“I said, ‘I understand their wages have to come from somewhere. But how can that be full tuition? My tuition is close to $3,000.’ Their response basically was, ‘Just don’t ask any questions.’

“I wasn’t alone; we were basically told, ‘Do you want to graduate?’ Cause that’s what it comes down to; if you don’t complete internship, you don’t graduate,” she said.

Jordan Jackle is another grad from the U of R's journalism program. He interned at the StarPhoenix in Saskatoon and at CTV Regina. Both were four-month paid internships.

"I imagine that if your internship didn't pay you, you would have to rely more on student loans, and budget your money better. If that's the case, and you have to get a second job to feed yourself, that really affects your ability to perform while on internship," he said. 

As for Seo, now a full-time control room operator with a T.V. company, he has mixed feelings about his internship. He quit the position because he knew a full-time job would never be available and his finances were taking a hit. But, he said, “I got good references from the producers and editors at the company. And I was hired to my current job with a good reference from one of the editors.”