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

Brooklyn Elementary was able to get its expanded garden ready this spring. Photo by Comox Valley Schools
Comox Valley school garden in full bloom after setback

Along with COVID delays, Brooklyn Elementary project had lumber stolen in 2020

CVSAR search the Puntledge River following a report of an abandoned kayak. Photo, CVSAR Facebook page
Comox Valley Search and Rescue spends four hours searching for no one

Overturned kayak a reminder for public to contact officials if they have to abandon a watercraft

Little Brown Bat, Cori Lausen image
Puntledge River bats being studied

Project will use ultrasonic data to collect information on species and habitat

A 30x40 ft boat/car shop in the Little River area near Wilkinson Road was fully involved by the time firefighters arrived on scene. Photo by Comox Fire Rescue
Comox firefighters battle ‘showy’ shop fire Saturday night

Smoke could be seen throughout the Comox Valley

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Most Read