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Students struggle to land summer employment in current job market 

By Nazeefa Ahmed, June 15 2023—

As students wrap up the spring semester, many struggle to find work for the summer months. A Statistics Canada report revealed that the youth unemployment in Alberta was 11.3 per cent this May, which is double the overall provincial unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent. Nationally, youth ages 15 to 24 have lost 77,000 jobs while those that are 25 to 54 gained 63,000 jobs.

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Students’ Union (SU) President Shaziah Jinnah Morsette discussed how the current job market is leading to many students competing for very few quality positions and are therefore struggling to keep up with expenses. 

“Students are paying 33 per cent higher tuition while facing the same inflationary pressures on other goods and services,” said Morsette. “The Alberta government can not tackle affordability without providing a meaningful jobs program for students.” 

The United Conservative Party (UCP) government cancelled the Student Temporary Employment program (STEP) program in 2019 which used to subsidize employers to hire students over the summer. 

“This allowed students to work and earn money for tuition while providing good quality work experience usually in their field of study,” said Morsette. “We also know that from surveying students from two previous summers that one in five U of C students looking for full-time summer employment were unable to find it.”

The 2019 cancellation by the UCP government was part of a greater plan to decrease government spending, according to a statement from the spokesperson of the ministry of labour. 

“While we sympathize with employers who were hoping to receive free money in 2020, Albertans elected us to get the province’s financial house in order,” read the statement. “In this case, other resources are available to support employers and youth.” 

Morsette describes how jobs created by the STEP program are not comparable to the UCP’s Work Integrated Learning pilot program, which would only provide placements to 650 students in the next three years.  

“Any specific funding has not come even close to the previous funding that we have seen,” said Morsette. “The Students’ Union has been calling for the government to reinstate a program like STEP or STEP itself, but we have seen over the last four years and during the campaign that the UCP government has abdicated their responsibility to help students find work.”

Given the thought competition to find work, the SU has expanded its student summer jobs program, Super Work. The program provides a wage subsidy to students making less than a competitive wage in a full-time summer job related to their degree. 

Morsette hopes to work with newly elected MLA Dr. Luanne Metz for the Calgary–Varsity electoral division. 

“While working with a new MLA in our area, we are excited to see the potential,” said Morsette. “We are going to continue to reiterate the fact that we have continuously seen an overwhelming cut to investments in post-secondary students.”

“When students are left behind, the Alberta economy is left behind,” Morsette concluded. 

Applications for Super Work can be found on the SU website and close on July 31.

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