News  Conservatives invest $10 million in summer jobs

Student unemployment needs more drastic measures, say critics

Despite the recent announcement of a $10-million investment to the Canadian Summer Jobs (CSJ) program, many believe the Conservative government is still not doing enough to curb student unemployment.

The investment is expected to create as many as 3,500 additional student summer jobs this year by encouraging not-for-profit organizations, public-sector employers, and small businesses (with fewer than fifty employees) to hire full-time students.

The program aims to help full-time students aged 15 to 30 to find summer employment, but there is no mention of compensation for part-time students or support for year-round student employment. The Conservative government already invested $10 million in the CSJ program in both 2009 and 2010 as part of their Economic Action Plan, yet, according to Statistics Canada, both of those years saw some of the highest youth unemployment rates on record.

“The economy remains the Government of Canada’s top priority. That’s why we are supporting the creation of more jobs for young Canadians, so they can find employment and gain the skills and experience they need to succeed,” wrote a spokesperson for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada in an email to The Daily.

Although NDP youth and post-secondary education critic Niki Ashton agreed that any focus on student unemployment is an important first step, she insisted that the current Conservative plan does little to address the sources of the problem.  It is a plan that she said lacks ingenuity and vision.

“Stephen Harper and his government claim to be good economic managers while they are leaving our generation and young people out in the cold by failing to take head on the problem of youth employment more generally,” she said.

According to Ashton, student unemployment needs to be addressed as part of a larger plan for a more sustainable Canadian future. “A lack of employment out there for young people to access does not bode well for the next generation’s ability to move forward. We are calling for an economy that is sustainable, a green economy, an economy built on research and development within our own institutions and our post-secondary institutions.

In an interview with the Canadian University Press, Dave Molenhuis, national chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students, agreed that while the CSJ program is good news for full-time students, there is still a desperate need for programs that support those who are in school part-time.

“Looking at who is a part-time student, especially [in] today’s economy, [it] includes mature students, students with dependents, students with disabilities, as well as those requiring re-training,” said Molenhuis.

“These are students who can only complete their studies on a part-time basis because of financial circumstances, because they have to work during the school year in order to be able to afford the costs of living and afford the increasing cost of post-secondary education,” he added.

Myriam Zaidi, SSMU VP External, also acknowledged that while the investment is a good first step, it is nowhere near a solution to students’ financial issues.

“I think that $10 million invested in student employment is great, but I also think that the federal investment in education is extremely low,” she said, emphasizing the need to place a greater focus on the increasing cost of tuition.

“If post-secondary education was not as expensive, students would be less pressured to find student jobs during the summer. Because even if students do find jobs over the summer, they will still have trouble paying for tuition during the year,” she said.

Provincial government aid allocated for students in Quebec greatly surpasses funds allocated by any other province in Canada – more than triple the second highest recipient, Ontario – according to a University Committee on Scholarships and Student Aid report submitted to McGill Senate for the 2007-2008 fiscal year.