While working in the sector that you’re studying is a prime choice for many students - a minimum-wage and unrelated position is better than nothing. Despite the type of work, the number of attainable jobs or even paid internships seem to be few and far between.
Luckily, when I left Loyalist College with a freshly-printed diploma in photojournalism - I was lucky enough to be taken on as an intern with The Standard.
After graduation, my parents and friends told me on a near-daily basis how lucky I was to have a job in the sector I went to school for - something which I thought was no great feat. Most colleges and universities advertise their record-setting employment rates, but forget to mention that many of the positions they help to fill have little to do with their subjects of study. I was shocked to learn that much of my graduating class was unemployed, or moved halfway across the country to find work.
Unfortunately for most students - the reality will be minimum wage positions which won’t come close to covering tuition costs – much less living and other expenses. The other posibility, which faces many young students that I know of, is no job at all - despite their pavement-pounding efforts.
Let’s reflect on the fact that the youth unemployment rate in Ontario is currently over 15 per cent, more than double the national average - while government-sponsored tuition bursary programs urge more and more students into the academic fray.
While I believe that school should be a primary focus and should trump a pay cheque, the lack of lines on a resume can make it difficult to find that first job, which is meant to carry a young person to bigger and better things.
Even more troubling is the fact that only about half of young people in our province, aged 15 to 24, held a paid position in 2014 - meaning that many will graduate without any work experience to speak of. And if they do find a position, they will likely be working on their own dime and for no compensation.
I believe that summer jobs and field placements offer valuable experience for young people, helping them to discover what they want to do with the rest of their lives, and offering the chance to work in the real world.
They are also particularily valuable to students who have a lengthy tenure in post-secondary education, helping to ward off the dreaded question - “Can you explain this gap in your resume?” Employers will note that a busy worker is a hard worker, and “I couldn’t find a position.” is not the best response.
Without opportunities to gain relevant work experience, many students feel no other choice than to work for free after they graduate. A quick scan of Kijiji reveals hundreds of advertisements for unpaid work.
Despite government claims to have banned unpaid internships, a 2014 Ministry of Labour report found that 42 per cent of employers with interns were not meeting their legal responsibilities.
During my time as a student, searching for a placement was one of the busiest periods, I had little chance to think about what those employer requirements were - and no room to be picky. As getting a placement was neccesary for graduation, I had only accepted that if I couldn’t get paid for working, I would have to bite the bullet and work for free.
The Canadian way of thought is to stop discrimination in the workplace, pay is not to be based on age or sex - so why should a student be expected to work for free? Many companies consider internships as a sort of trial-run for employment - but the work they recieve is quite tangible.
If an employer can only facilitate unpaid-labour, perhaps they should look at opening a volunteer program - instead of offering temporary desks to the educated masses.
Aside from the ethics of unpaid internships, economists point out that such schools of thought are bad for the economy. Unpaid positions privilege those who can afford to work for free, and exclude promising young talent who need income to stay ahead of their loans, or pay the rent.
Is the ever-inflating cost of tuition, and the student loans which foot the bill, not enough?
For some young job-seekers, the sad irony is that unpaid internships rarely lead to employment.
In contrast, employers who invest in training their paid co-op students and interns are much more likely to keep them on staff - and to get a better product in return.
As a young person of 21-years-old, I’m not sure what the solution to these work-related woes could be. But the rate of unemployment, and the concessions people will give to work, is a rising tide - and something’s going to give, soon.