Feds funnel millions into summer student job creation
CUP Ottawa Bureau Chief
OTTAWA (CUP) — More Canadian students will be able to find full-time work this summer, thanks to a $10-million investment from the Conservative government.
Ted Menzies, newly-appointed minister of state for finance, announced on Jan. 5 that the government would help create as many as 3,500 new student jobs for summer 2011.
In an email to Canadian University Press, a Human Resources and Skills Development Canada spokesperson explained the national budget for the Canada Summer Jobs program is being permanently increased by $10 million, starting this year.
“It’s welcome news for debt-ravaged students,” said Dave Molenhuis, national chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students. “The Canada Summer Jobs program is important in that it’s created employment opportunities for students that would not otherwise exist.”
The Conservatives first put Canada Summer Jobs into place in 2007 after slashing funding to its predecessor, the Summer Career Placement Program, in the 2006 federal budget. Since then, the Tories have invested $10 million in the summer employment initiative each in 2009 and 2010 as part of their Economic Action Plan.
Both of those years saw some of the highest youth unemployment rates on record, according to Statistics Canada. Last summer, 16.8 per cent of Canadians aged 15-24 were jobless; 19.2 per cent of youth were unemployed in summer 2009.
NDP youth and post-secondary education critic Niki Ashton explained that while the government’s investment is an important step, it’s not enough to help young Canadians.
“But not only are they not doing enough, they’re not showing any sort of innovation or really any strategy to deal with this in the longer term,” she said. “The high rates of youth unemployment are not just a phenomenon of 2010 — this has been a trend.”
Additionally, not all students will be able to benefit from the Conservatives’ new investment. The jobs that will be created will only be available to full-time students aged 15-30 who are returning to full-time studies in September 2011.
According to HRSDC, “Canada Summer Jobs is specifically designed to support full-time students returning to school because they only have summer months to be employed full-time and to save money to support their tuition costs.”
Molenhuis agreed that not enough attention is being paid to part-time students.
“Looking at who is a part-time student, especially today’s economy, [it] includes mature students, students with dependants, students with disabilities, as well as those requiring re-training,” he said.
“These are students who can only complete their studies on a part-time basis because of financial circumstances, because they have to work during the school year in order to be able to afford the costs of living and afford the increasing cost of post-secondary education,” he continued.
According to Statistics Canada, there were 284,154 part-time university students registered for the 2008-2009 academic year — the most recent year for which information was collected. In that year, part-time students made up about 25 per cent of all university students in Canada.
“To not allow them the opportunity to access summer employment, or to ignore that demographic and the needs they have, is further setting them back in the challenges they face,” said Ashton.
Along with age and full-time status criteria for students, the federal government will be investing specifically in non-profit organizations, public sector agencies and small businesses. Priority will be given to jobs and workplaces that support local communities and priorities, offer career-related experience to students, and will hire students with disabilities and youth who are members of visible minority groups.
Employers will be able to apply for funding throughout the month of February and are expected to be able to have students working starting in May 2011. According to HRSDC, students will be able to apply for jobs directly with employers, although a full list of supported workplaces will only be available after the summer.