$50 million summer solution
BY MICHELLE DEMEYERE
In an attempt to help students find higher paying, degree-related jobs, the Ontario Government recently introduced a $50.8 million grant for the Ontario Summer Jobs program.
The government's hope is to employ 48,000 people between the ages of 15 and 24 by giving incentives to businesses and community organizations to hire students for up to 16 weeks, said Brenda Chalmers, a consultant with the Ministry of Education and Training.
As part of the Ontario Summer Jobs initiative, $620,000 is being set aside for student loans for those who want to start their own business.
"Last year, more students got jobs than anticipated through the Ontario Summer Jobs program and we think the same will happen this year," Chalmers said.
However, Nick Iozzo, University Students' Council VP-education, was critical of the mid-April announcement in light of the provincial government's latest cuts to education funding.
"This Ontario Summer Jobs program is not new. They make these kind of announcements every year when the funding is renewed. In fact, the 50 million given this year is much less than Liberal and [New Democratic Party] governments have allocated in the past," he said.
Wayne Lessard, NDP critic for post secondary education and training, said this program is not the answer to student problems. "[The provincial government] knows that unemployment is at a critical level. What they should do is raise minimum wage and develop a comprehensive strategy instead of this Band-Aid summer solution," he said.
However, Sharon Lee, coordinator of employment services at the Student Development Centre, is optimistic because job postings at the SDC are up 40 per cent from 4,125 last year to 5,800 this year.
"I think both the federal and provincial governments realize they have to invest in students and the best way to do so is to partner with business and community efforts," she said.
Stewart Cavers, a third-year arts student at Western, said hunting for a summer job is not an easy task. "I'll take anything," Cavers said, although he admitted he does not want to settle for a minimum wage paying job.
"I can't afford anything less than $8 per hour," he said.
Both Iozzo and Lee said they are worried about the widening gap between the cost of education and student earnings. "Job creation is booming in Ontario," Lee said, adding that the cost of going to school, however, is as well.