University of Calgary students have wrapped up their classes and are in the final days of exams before the summer break, but many don’t know what the summer will hold for them. With the pandemic’s third wave hitting Alberta hard, students are struggling to find any kind of work regardless of their field of study.
This is no different than last summer where nearly one-third of surveyed U of C students said they couldn’t find any work at all. Another 12 per cent said they had opportunities cancelled due to the pandemic.
This student jobs crisis would be bad enough on its own, but it’s combined with 22.5 per cent in tuition increases over the last few years thanks to UCP cuts. Further, the UCP has eliminated the tuition tax credit, resulting in what is essentially a $200-million tax increase for students and their families.
When the UCP government eliminated the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) in 2019, it left a considerable hole in supports for students. Students and young people face higher unemployment than most other demographics even prior to the pandemic. STEP at least provided some relief but no longer.
What’s even worse is this situation was so predictable. The University of Calgary Students’ Union, as well as student leaders across the province, has been warning the UCP government about student struggles finding work. They’ve failed to take any action despite requests for a student job program for over a year.
Students want to work and employers want to hire, but both sides just need some help.
The UCP government likes to tout its Jobs Now program. The problem is this UCP program isn’t creating any jobs now and students need them right away. It will be summer break next week. The Jobs Now program was announced in the budget and it still remains unclear how students will benefit, if they will at all.
Other programs like Mitacs benefit mainly graduate students, leaving undergrads still out in the cold.
Students are paying more, getting less, and can’t find jobs. This Alberta is a far cry from the UCP platform of jobs, economy, pipelines. The only pipeline the UCP has managed to construct is a pipeline of young people leaving for greener pastures in other provinces.
The province needs to re-implement the STEP program and do it now. Students are out of time and can’t wait any longer for the government to take real action.
Students can’t afford two consecutive summers without work.
Frank Finley is president of the Students’ Union at the University of Calgary.