Summer jobs light up career paths

2016 DIVERSEcity Youth Education and Job Fair. | Photo courtesy of DIVERSEcity

For many youth, the transition from studying to beginning a professional career starts with summer employment. According to Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey of youth aged between 15 and 24, roughly 54% of the 2.8 million students in Canada were employed in the peak summer employment months of July and August last year.

Working over the summer strengthens those components of soft skills seldom practiced in an academic setting.

“Often people think of soft skills as just interpersonal skills,” says Alden Habacon, a diversity and inclusion strategist who coaches both employers and jobseekers. In fact, soft skills range from interpersonal skills, to professionalism and work ethics, and to the ability to problem solve.

“A lot of university-educated young people learned how to problem solve and manage time, projects and data,” says Habacon. “Often what they struggle with in the workplace, even if they’ve been successful in university, are the interpersonal, communications, professionalism and work ethics pieces.”

Summer employment also helps youth form connections with a wider group of people, building networks that benefit their career development.

Vanessa Smit, Manager at YMCA of Greater Vancouver, explains that summer employment opportunities at the YMCA give youth the opportunity to gain experience and develop new skills to add to their resume.

“Youth participants increase their network and gain valuable references to support their future job search through the summer employment experience,” says Smit. “They have the opportunity to learn about an industry and determine interests that can help focus their career path, and of course, earn money, which many of them put towards their continued
education.”

Help for youth seeking summer employment

Summer employment numbers in British Columbia are similar to national averages. Among the 382,000 students in British Columbia, about 207,000 were employed in July and August last year. Online job searches are popular for jobseekers. Job fairs are another option.

DIVERSEcity is a not-for-profit agency that provides, among other services, youth employment training through its Future Leaders program. Early in May last year, the agency also ran a Youth Education and Job Fair in anticipation of the summer hiring session. About 150 participants and 25 organizations attended the event aimed to connect youth to educators such as the Vancouver Community College, and to employers such as Fed Ex, Shaw Communications and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

For students planning to return to school after summer, it may help to look for organizations participating in the Canada Summer Jobs program. Through the program, the government provides funding to create summer job opportunities for young people who are full-time students intending to return to their studies in the next school year.

Many B.C. organizations participate in this program. YMCA of Greater Vancouver is one of more than 3000 approved employers listed for B.C. alone.

YMCA of Greater Vancouver appreciates the partnership with the Federal Government. “Without their support,” says Smit, “we would not have the ability to offer as many employment opportunities to youth over the summer.”

Government impact on youth employment

The impact of government funding extends beyond summer employment to youth employment in general. Future Leaders at DIVERSEcity, which has supported immigrant youth to successful employment since 2008, is currently facing funding uncertainty.

“The latest program contract with Service Canada ended on May 12,” says Susan Liu Woronko, manager of Skill Training and Employment at DIVERSEcity. “The program interruption and funding uncertainty can be difficult for newcomer youth.”

When asked about this year’s Youth Education and Job Fair, Liu Woronko says that the event is currently on hold.

“With the uncertainty of the Future Leaders program, we have decided to put the fair on hold,” she explains. “Unfortunately, it means we will miss the summer hiring session.”

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