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Students struggle to find summer jobs in slumping economy

By Stephanie Tang, April 2 2015 —

Can’t find a summer job? You’re not alone.

Post-secondary students are struggling to find work this summer as a slow economy takes its toll on employers across the city. The University of Calgary’s Career Services has seen substantial increases in students seeking their help as a result.

“We did see a significant increase in students attending our annual Career Expo in February,” said Career Services manager Colleen Bangs. “Typically, this fair sees about 2,500 students. This year, over 4,500 came through the doors.”

The economic downturn, largely caused by the low price of oil, has heavily impacted Calgary’s energy sector. Companies announced layoffs, budget cuts and hiring freezes. Cenovus and Canadian Natural Resources Limited are among major companies who stopped hiring while Talisman Energy, Nexen Energy, ConocoPhillips and Suncor laid off hundreds of employees.

Other big employers like Target, Sony and Future Shop recently announced the closure of their Canadian stores. Shaw Communications is shutting down its call centres in Calgary. And according to Statistics Canada, 14,000 Albertans were laid off in February when the provincial unemployment rate rose to 5.3 per cent — the highest it’s been since September 2011.

Youth unemployment has also risen. In February, 10 per cent of 15–24 year-olds were unemployed, up from just under nine per cent the previous year.

Fourth-year operations management student Carmen Leong, who currently works in retail, has been job-hunting since December. She’s applied for 14 positions, but hasn’t heard back from anyone.

“It’s been difficult. Submitting application after application and not hearing from companies can be really discouraging, especially as graduation approaches,” Leong said.

While the job market may not have much to offer, U of C career specialist David Cataford said that students shouldn’t give up.

“In times like this, you just have to try a little harder and be a little more proactive. If you work hard at it and you’re persistent, you’ll land a summer job,” Cataford said.

Cataford advised students to be creative. He said networking and using LinkedIn to connect with professionals is invaluable, especially if conventional job hunting isn’t working.

Cataford also suggested arranging information sessions and getting tips from professionals in the field a student is interested in. And, if all else fails, students should book an appointment with Career Services.

“No matter what economy, good people are finding jobs,” Cataford said. “You just have to be more creative at it, that’s all.”

Bangs is also optimistic about the outlook of careers for students. She encourages students to keep looking for ways to gain marketable skills to complement their education.

“There will be more adversity for students graduating into this economic climate. However, natural attrition and the creation of new types of roles will continue to present opportunities for new graduates.”


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