Students walk to school at the Durham College campus and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Ont., on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Students walk to school at the Durham College campus and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Ont., on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Despite economic reopening, students still worry about lack of summer work

Concerns raised about the ability of young people to earn enough to help cover tuition in the fall

Brandon Rheal Amyot was sweating while perusing summer job opportunities in February, realizing that opportunities weren’t abundant.

The Lakehead University student watched something similar happen last year when job opportunities dried up as Canada went through its first summer of COVID-19.

Now, provinces are set to reopen economic activity and economists expect a hiring boom, but all that comes too late for students, Amyot said, noting employers have mostly filled positions, while other sectors just aren’t hiring students as normal.

Student groups say that raises concerns about the ability for young people to earn enough to help cover tuition in the fall, or get a first job.

“This summer, unemployment is not quite as high as it was, but it’s still an issue,” said Amyot, with the Ontario wing of the Canadian Federation of Students.

“If you don’t already have a co-op, or a placement that is paid, you’re probably pretty strapped right now.”

Amyot added the situation is acute for youth who typically face barriers to employment, such as Indigenous people, the LGBTQ community and recent immigrants.

Statistics Canada’s latest jobs report said the unemployment rate for students returning to classes in the fall stood at 23.1 per cent in May, typically the month when post-secondary students start into summer work after wrapping their studies for the school year.

The data agency’s report noted the unemployment rate last month for returning students was just over half of the 40 per cent recorded in the same month last year, but higher than the 13.7 per cent recorded in May 2019.

Behnoush Amery, a senior economist with the Labour Market Information Council, said youth aged 15 to 24 accounted for about two-fifths of the employment drop last month, marking yet another hit for a cohort nicknamed the “lockdown generation.”

Young workers are generally the first to be laid off when times get tough, but often not the first to be rehired as they compete for fewer opportunities with more experienced workers, Amery said.

Many of the positions students occupy this time of year are in retail, tourism and other industries still affected by the pandemic, said Marley Gillies, chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.

She said federal funding to expand the summer jobs programs should help cushion the blow, but noted the need to expand eligibility criteria to capture older and international students.

May’s employment report noted the situation was more dire for visible minority youth. Statistics Canada said their unemployment rate hit 24.8 per cent in May compared to the 14.9 per cent for non-visible minorities, not adjusted for seasonal variations.

Visible minority groups often face hurdles to finding work that are heightened by the economic situation in which the country finds itself, said Marie Dolcetti-Koros, national treasurer for the Canadian Federation of Students. She also said the jobs figures don’t detail the quality of jobs marginalized youth often take on.

“Marginalized students and youth have survived the past year by working front-line jobs, which has also increased their exposure to COVID-19, just to stay afloat,” she said.

A review of one now-scrapped federal program aimed at helping improve employment outcomes for those youth found that participants were more often able to find work, but they ended up earning less than peers who didn’t go through the “skills link” program.

That contrasted to another program for recent graduates that showed higher incomes five years post-program, and a federal financial benefit in the form of more tax revenues and less spending on social supports.

“Being unemployed or unskilled in a high-income country such as Canada where labour demand is skill-intensive, puts youth at a distinct disadvantage,” officials from Employment and Social Development Canada noted in “skills link” review.

The federal government overhauled the strategy in 2019, tying funding to groups on outcomes. A spokeswoman for Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said the revamped strategy aims to be more flexible and enhanced, and tailored supports for youth facing barriers to employment.

Behind the immediate concerns about work for this summer are concerns far into the future. Studies have shown that graduates entering the labour market full time in a recession often have a long-term impacts on their careers and lifetime earnings.

“Not providing opportunities, not making investments in young people and in our communities will impact people’s livelihood, health, well-being and have generational effects that will create additional barriers to obtaining post-secondary education and additional barriers to entering a job market,” Dolcetti-Koros said.

—Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Economy lost 68,000 jobs in May, unemployment rate 8.2%, Statistics Canada says

JobsStudents

Just Posted

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

Some of the priorities that the GDCF is hoping to touch on in their surveys that will inform community priorities. (GDCF photo)
Golden Community Foundation encouraging residents to participate in survey

It’s a new project to inform community priorities in the coming year

The Independent Investigations Office of BC is looking into a Castlegar incident. File photo
Police watchdog investigating Castlegar incident

IIO: Woman sustained a reportedly self-inflicted injury

The Aquatic Centre at Western Financial Place.
Cranbrook Aquatic Center to close temporarily

The annual shutdown of the Aquatic Center at Western Financial Place will begin earlier than scheduled this year and does not have a defined end date at this time.

The latest EKASS survey confirms a steady decline in substance use among EK youth over the years. (image compilation via Pixabay)
Latest survey shows steady decline in adolescent substance use over the years

Starting in 2002, the survey has been conducted every two years to monitor changes in substance use patterns, attitudes and behaviors amongst East Kootenay youth.

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

Mounties cover a burgundy truck with a tent at Buckerfields in West Kelowna on Monday, June 14. The RCMP is investigating after a woman’s body was found inside the truck. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating suspicious death after body found in truck

Police responded to a truck parked out front of a Main Street business where the body was found

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Most Read