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Job outlook for students gloomy as pandemic persists

by Nojoud Al Mallees

October saw an 18 per cent unemployment rate for those aged 15 to 24

Many businesses remain closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Anastasia Chepinska/Unsplash)

Students looking for work to pay for school or gain experience face an uphill battle as COVID-19 continues.

According to Statistics Canada, individuals who are 24 and under suffered the highest unemployment rate among all age groups in October. 

Young people, between the ages of 20 and 24, are experiencing the largest increase in unemployment compared to a year ago, with the unemployment rate jumping from just below nine per cent in Oct. 2019 to 18 per cent  in Oct. 2020.

Many students rely on part-time work to pay for school and living expenses, but with businesses in the hospitality and entertainment industries experiencing heavy restrictions, employment opportunities are scarce.

In a press conference on Oct. 28, the Bank of Canada’s Senior Deputy Governor, Carolyn Wilkins, forecast that the Canadian economy is unlikely to get back on track until 2023, with young people and women being hit the hardest.

Kiran Punjani, a master’s student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and former Ryerson graduate, said she has relied on part-time work for the last few years to support herself while in school. When the pandemic hit however, finding a job proved to be a challenge.

“Being put in that position where I don’t have anything to support myself was really difficult because I had to pay my tuition, which is a lot, especially for a masters,” said Punjani. 

After a long job search, Punjani was able to land a tutoring job thanks to her background in teaching. She realizes, though, that many students aren’t as fortunate in their employment search. 

“Students already have so much to look after, and then adding that pandemic stress of finding a job so that you can support yourself,  that must have been extremely difficult,” she said.  

Julia Pereira, the president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, said her organization heard from many students concerned about summer employment at the start of the pandemic.

“We heard from a lot of students that they were finding difficulty securing a position (and) some students that had secured co-ops before the pandemic hit, they had been cancelled,” said Pereira. 

While the Canada Student Emergency Benefit provided some support for students, said Pereira,  it still fell short of what students were expecting to make from a full-time summer job, leaving them in a financially precarious position for the fall.

“We haven’t really seen much increase in OSAP and there hasn’t been much more money distributed to students,” said Pereira. “When you reflect on the times, this is an opportunity for the province to really support students because they’re struggling more than ever.”

The types of student jobs available at universities have also been affected with the closure of campuses across the province since March. 

The greatest impact on student jobs at Ryerson was during the summer, said Thoywell Hemmings, a senior manager at Ryerson’s Career and Co-op Centre (RCCC). Since then most jobs have been adapted to a virtual format, however.

“The type of job that was being offered to students, that’s really what changed. A lot of the work was and could be done in a virtual format,” said Hemmings. “And so while we did see a little decrease in the amount of students that were able to find opportunity, overall the majority of work has remained relatively high.” 

Hemmings said the shortage of jobs in the community  means that students should be putting in extra effort into crafting their resumes and cover letters as well as applying to as many opportunities as possible.

“If before you had to apply to 30 jobs, now you need to apply to 60,” said Hemmings. “Recruitment and finding jobs is all a numbers game.”

Hemmings said students interested in honing their job search skills should seek out the RCCC’s services, all of which are now available virtually.  

For more information on Ryerson’s career development services, click here

This article may have been created with the use of AI software such as Google Docs, Grammarly, and/or Otter.ai for transcription.

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