Student leaders are decrying federal government cuts that could mean 6,000 fewer student jobs across the country this summer.
The cuts were part of the Conservative government’s redesign of the Liberal-created Summer Career Placement Program, which allows employers to apply for funding to hire students for the summer months. The redesign–renamed the Canada Summer Jobs program–is budgeted at $86 million, $11 million less than the Liberal program.
According to the Service Canada website, the new program gives priority to proposals which will employ students who face barriers to employment like disabled and Aboriginal students, or students in areas with high youth unemployment rates. The program is also meant to give students career-related work experience and favours non-profit organizations including those with social, community, health or environmental mandates.
Canadian Alliance of Student Associations national director Phillippe Ouellette said Calgary students may notice negative changes since the funding focuses on areas with weaker economies.
“There is a big labour market in Alberta, but how many people are working in their field of study?” questioned Ouellette. “You could go and get a job at McDonalds and you would make a lot of money, but is it in your field? No.”
Ouellette noted that originally the government proposed cutting funding to the program by half, but after meetings with CASA they cut funding by about a quarter. Despite the compromise, Ouellette said CASA will continue to press the issue when they meet with Minister of Human Resources Monte Solberg sometime after the budget is released March 20.
“This is a shift away from what [the Conservative party] has provided lip service for,” he said, referring to the government’s commitment to post-secondary education.
Student leaders at the University of Calgary are also concerned with the logistics of applying for the newly created program, the details of which were announced the week of March 5.
“My other concern is that people will have no time for the application process,” said Students’ Union vice-president external Julie Labonte. “Usually, businesses have two to three months, and now it’s only three to four weeks.”
Labonte said she is worried that if businesses don’t apply for the Canada Summer Jobs program because of the tight deadline, funding to the program could be further cut next year.
Neither Calgary West MP Rob Anders nor Minister of Human Resources Monte Solberg returned phone calls before deadline.