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Student employment to benefit from STEP reintroduction

By Fabian Mayer, June 4 2015 —

Among the myriad of campaign promises made by the New Democratic Party in last month’s provincial election, bringing back the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) went largely unnoticed. But STEP may be the campaign promise with the biggest impact on students.

The program incentivizes employers to hire summer students with government funding. The program existed for nearly 40 years before it was cut by Alison Redford’s PC government in 2013.

University of Calgary Students’ Union vice-president external Romy Garrido is excited that the program might return.

“We really consider it the final step in an education,” Garrido said. “We want to help the new government with its platform promises.”

Garrido is also the chair of the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS), a provincial student lobby group. Garrido said CAUS is studying the program and will make recommendations to the government this summer.

“We think that we have to analyze it before just saying let’s put it out there,” Garrido said. “Last time it was around, it was very meaningful for students, but of course there’s always things that we can improve.”

Colleen Bangs is the manager of Career Services at the U of C. She supports reintroducing STEP.

“It helps students by providing opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t have the funding to give students those opportunities,” Bangs said.

She said sectors that would be able to hire more summer students include government, non-profit organizations and small businesses.

“It was a program that was successful for 40 years and it definitely lends something to the economy,” Bangs said.

According to Bangs, Career Services has seen more students seeking their services as Alberta’s economy slows. She said an annual career expo that usually draws 2,500 students saw 4,500 this year.

“We’re still seeing hiring [but] the positions aren’t as plentiful as they have been in the last couple of years,” Bangs said.

While she claimed it was difficult to say for sure, Bangs suspects STEP would have helped boost student employment this summer.

SU president Levi Nilson has been closely following the new government. He hopes the new minister of Innovation and Advanced Education, Jobs, Skills, Training & Labour, Lori Sigurdson, will push for STEP to be reintroduced for next summer.

“For her to take on the role of jobs skills training and labour and advanced education is really exciting for us with STEP because that’s going to be entirely under her portfolio,” Nilson said.

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