Students in pickle for summer jobs

Bryce Forbes

If you are a struggling student returning to Fort Frances from a long year at college or university, and can’t find a job—you’re not alone.
Matt Smeeth and Cody McMahon are two of countless local residents who left to go to school and have yet to secure a summer job when they come back.
They not only can’t find work related to their schooling, but even a job in general.
“I would like to take something related to my field, but right now I’ll take anything,” said Smeeth, 20, who finished his second of three years in architectural technology at Confederation College in Thunder Bay.
“I’m focusing on jobs in my field, but since I can’t really find anything, I’m probably going to have to find something that hires year-round,” echoed McMahon, who recently completed his first year of electrical engineering at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.
Both have sent out about 10 résumés to various employers­—Smeeth to an array of jobs while McMahon focused on employers related to electrical engineering—but have yet to receive an offer.
McMahon looked for a job in Thunder Bay, but when those leads came up dry, he decided to try his luck back home in Fort Frances.
He’s been on the hunt since he returned, and had set a drop dead date to find an electrical engineering job this past Friday (May 7).
McMahon said the perfect job for him would be at the AbitibiBowater mill in Fort Frances. He applied for the student electrical engineering summer program, but has yet to hear back from the company.
“It will be good to get in there for some experience in that field to see what kind of options I have later on in my career,” he reasoned.
“[It would] open up my eyes to what is ahead for my program.”
Smeeth is one of the luckier students who already has finished a co-op work program for his degree, so he doesn’t need to focus on getting a job in his field.
He has sent out about 10 applications to various employers, from gas stations to North American Lumber, but to no avail.
But hope is not all lost for these two, or the plenty of other students out there with similar problems.
Enter the Northern Community Development Services (NCDS) and Service Canada—two options set up here to help students find summer jobs.
Tyson Grinsell is the Summer Job Service co-ordinator for NCDS and has seen about 100 university, college, and high school students sign up for the summer job program through him.
“As the summer goes, I’ll probably get over 200 [students],” he noted.
Grinsell has filled 20 jobs so far, and hopefully will finalize many more over the coming days.
One of the perks for both the employer and employee is the wage subsidy NCDS offers. As long as the student works a minimum number of hours a week, the employer is offered a two-dollar-an-hour subsidy from Employment Ontario through its Job Connect program.
Grinsell said his budget holds enough money for 154 job placements this year—up from 116 last year and 84 from 2008.
But even though he only can place 154 students, it doesn’t mean he won’t help other teens find work.
Last year, he placed more than 130 students despite a budget for 116.
“Just because I’m not giving funding for that job, it doesn’t mean I’m not helping them get the job,” stressed Grinsell, who is in his second summer of running the job program at NCDS.
Meanwhile, Dayna DeBenedet, a Youth Service Officer in the Service Canada Centre for Youth here, said the job market looks promising for the summer.
“It’s early on in the summer, so employers are trying to figure out what they are going to do for the summer,” she noted.
“But we have talked to a few employers [and] people sound excited about the summer and looking for student help.”
The jobs offered through NCDS and Service Canada are wide-ranging, from several labour jobs to restaurants, camp jobs, and retail.
And although they may not be the highest-paying jobs around, Grinsell said they are enough to save up some much-needed education money.
“If they are on a placement with us, they will be getting enough hours to make some pretty good money,” Grinsell noted.
For those students who are without a summer job, Grinsell offers this advice­­: a job is a job.
“The economy is not great right now, so if you’re offered a job, you should probably take it,” he remarked.
“Any job you can get is better then no job.”
DeBenedet said if you can’t find a summer job, you might have to broaden your search.
“Even if the job that you have isn’t directly related to the field of work you want to get into, there are a lot of valuable transferable skills you can learn from,” she enthused.
“There are skills you can learn from that job that might be applicable to your field.”
As well, Grinsell said when handing out résumés, always had them directly to the manager, then follow up with the employer a few days later if you haven’t heard anything.
DeBenedet, meanwhile, advised to learn as much possible about a future employer before going in for an interview.
In addition to the summer job centre, NCDS offers other services to make the job hunt easier, such as helping people get their WHMIS, SmartServe, or First Aid training.
They also put forth skill-building courses in customer service or money management skills.
As part of the Service Canada program, DeBenedet said there is an “Odd Job Squad,” which is a casual labour program.
She noted homeowners or employers can send in casual labour jobs and the squad will refer them to students looking for work.