Federal Government Invests $73 Million in Student Job Placements

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations is excited to support the project, but recommends further action
Alyssa Laube, Co-ordinating Editor

CASA Executive Director, Michael McDonald. (Submitted/CASA)

Canadian students in Business and STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) can look forward to more secure job prospects thanks to the federal government’s planned $73 million investment into the Student Work-Integrated Learning Program, which is designed to increase co-op work placements for students in high-demand fields over the next six years.

Employment and Social Development Canada made its plan public on Aug. 28. it states that the government will provide eligible employers with wage subsidies so that it can afford to support students who are enrolled in post-secondary school and may need more training than seasoned professionals applying for the same positions. High quality work placements will allow subsidies up to $5,000, while $7,000 will be allowed for placements filled by first-year students and students from marginalized groups.

Michael McDonald, the Executive Director for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, says that although CASA sees the government funding this program as “a really positive step,” students from fields other than Business and STEM need more opportunities for work as well.

“CASA really believes that this is important for students in all areas of study,” says McDonald. “But we feel that this addresses a key concern of our organization, which is that under-represented students—who have had a lot more difficulty getting into these sorts of job markets—are being supported in a way that’s going to facilitate that process.”

Advocating for more work-integrated learning experiences for students has been one of CASA’s primary concerns since 2014. Offering post-secondary students the opportunity to make money in their field before they graduate leads to more employment for youth, and smooths their transition from getting an education to working full-time. Two methods of accomplishing this are extending the Canada Summer Jobs Program to operate throughout the year and ensuring that private sector employers have training for new employees who have just finished their studies.

“If a student’s able to have a well-paying job when they’re in study or ensuring that they complete their studies, it makes education more accessible and far more affordable,” says McDonald.

A policy paper called Student (Un)Employment in Canada by CASA was submitted to the expert panel on youth unemployment that the federal government launched earlier this year. When the panel released its own paper, Student (Un)Employment in Canada was cited in the bibliography, so the Association is optimistic that the government is paying attention to students’ needs.

Although CASA is feeling positive about the future of student job placement, they “expect that every federal program, once it’s been launched, is reviewed extensively and that that review be made public so that stakeholders are able to assess if those dollars are reaping the results that we need.”

“It’s not just one thing that needs to get done,” says McDonald. “There are a variety of different things, so we’re happy to see this positive step being taken forward, but we do think there is more to be done on employment, especially broad-based employments supports.”

He continues, “Showing that work-integrated learning is something that the government supports actively could be a really great jumping off point for making sure that more students can be the job experience they need in study and that they’re going to be able to transition really quickly into that work force.”

Editor’s Note: Representatives from the Kwantlen Student Association consistently attend CASA’s meetings, though the KSA is not an official member of the alliance. As the KSA already pays membership to the Canadian Federation of Students, they feel it would be unfair to ask KPU students to pay membership fees to both organizations.