Student job program is a go

By Cam Cotton-O’Brien

The Canada Summer Jobs program received funding after a nervous wait, but concerns remain over whether the program is a viable tool in helping students get career-oriented work in Calgary’s job market.

The biggest change in the CSJ program was the mechanism for the allocation of funding. The new system was designed to provide funding to companies offering students career-related work experience, as well as provide funding to areas where there is a high incidence of youth unemployment, and to particular groups who face greater challenges when getting a summer job.

This year the CSJ total budget was $85.9 million, down from last year’s $97.5 million. Funding for not-for-profits remains the same at $77.3 million.

“Funding under Canada Summer Jobs is given to companies that show they can offer students meaningful and career-related work experience,” said Lesley Harmer, director of communications for MP Monte Solberg. “But, there is more to it. The program helps students who live in areas where there are barriers to finding jobs. For example, priority is given to organizations in areas of high unemployment or smaller areas that have fewer job opportunities. Priority is also given to companies that hire students with disabilities, aboriginal students, and students who are visible minorities.”

The new method of funding distribution has created concern amongst some student organizations who feel the method does not create career-related jobs in areas such as Calgary, that already have a tremendous job market, meaning CSJ positions won’t necessarily provide students with work related to their degree.

“The Tories have implemented the program under a different philosophy than it has been previously implemented by,” said Canadian Alliance of Student Associations national director Zach Churchill . “[Funding] used to be targeted by riding, now they are distributing funds to areas that have the highest levels of unemployment, which is good. However, the government is oversimplifying the situation because it’s not just about how many jobs there are for students. This program was set in place to make sure that students have career work experience and not just summer jobs.”

Initially, additional controversy cropped up as a number of organizations that had received funding in the past were denied this year. A second wave of funding was then distributed.

“In this transition year, it became apparent that some groups had begun to rely on this funding and were not able to make alternative arrangements for this year,” said Harmer. “Therefore, Minister Solberg listened to his fellow members of Parliament and community leaders, and directed his officials to accelerate the process of the standard second-wave of funding. Historically, there have always been two rounds of funding for the summer employment programs. During the second round, worthy groups who provide valuable services but have been unable to make other arrangements were reconsidered.”

Churchill viewed the additional funding as a positive contribution, but was concerned it may have come too late.

“Students need jobs right away in the summer and organizations, especially not-for-profits and NGOs need to know if they have federal funding in order to hire students,” said Churchill. “By virtue of these organizations not knowing if they had funding, it puts them at a disadvantage. [The organizations are] supposed to be in a position where they could hire students by May 1st. Because of the way it was handled, it seems they were unable to do so.”

The University of Calgary was one of the organizations initially denied funding, but received support in the second round.

“The unfortunate thing is that we received notification much later than we usually do,” said University of Calgary director of recruitment Ila Edgar . “Many students were forced to look for other employment.”

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