Volume 92, Issue 81

Wednesday, March 3, 1999


Keep cool in the summer

Impressing the suits for that all important test

Keep cool in the summer

Graphic ©Brahm Wiseman

By Ian Ross
Gazette Staff

A two-week caffeine binge comes to an end for a young Western student fleeing the classroom for the last time. The ink is still drying on their last exam and bright skies welcome the burnt-out scholar to the world of freedom – summertime.

This is the calm before the storm for many students. The thundering truth of the summer job market quickly jolts those students back to reality with a painful shock. No job, no money. This is a nightmare which has no reason of becoming true according to Sharon Lee, the coordinator of student employment services at Western's Student Development Centre.

Lee says the summer job market is currently in full swing and students should not put off job searching any longer. The time period between January and March holds the greatest potential for summer employment, she says.

David Raymont, coordinator of communications for the Ministry of Education and Training for the Ontario government, stresses the phrase "the early bird catches the worm."

"You should honestly start looking for next summer's job right after you finish your last summer job," he says. He adds previous employers are the best people to start with.

For those venturing off into the world of resumes and interviews this month, the outlook appears positive. Last summer, the Ontario summer jobs program run by the Ministry of Education and Training found positions for 60,483 youths – a 28 per cent increase from 1997. Raymont says he expects an even higher number this year.

Lee says interest from employers has been high this winter and she points to the growing economy as the magician. "We have an ear to the ground and one foot in the door to industry so we understand Ontario is experiencing a boom. That means more jobs for students."

Lee explains the number of employment opportunities relies on supply and demand. Right now, the supply of students has remained consistent while the demand for their services are increasing to the highest level since the information revolution caught the economy off-guard earlier in the decade, she says.

Not only has the summer job market changed, but so has the method of seeking out employment. The information superhighway offers the newest and most prosperous resource to students on the go. "The internet has added a tremendous bonus to the job search process," Lee says. "It opens up a whole new avenue."

Western's Internet Cafe (http://cafe.sdu.uwo.ca) is one of the many sites available to students. The national award-winning resource can be accessed by any Western student and offers a wealth of information. "You can eat your Kraft Dinner and look for a job at three in the morning," Lee says on the convenience aspect of the net.

Another web site ready to boot up for public use starting Monday is the Ontario government's Student Employment Centre page (http://www.sec.on.ca). The new site will offer a listing of job opportunities and career information, says Erin Mason, the assistant coordinator of London's Student Employment Centre at 137 Dundas St..

Both student programs also offer the traditional walk-in service. Job hunters can take advantage of resume and cover letter clinics, mock interviews, job search strategies and employment postings at no cost.

An alternative method is offered by Resume Relay Services in Toronto. For a small charge, the company will send out resumes to a selected field of employers in a requested region. Vincent Tsang, a partner in the new venture, says the service will appeal to the student without time to get dirty in job searching. "Students need to know who is hiring," he said. "This is a proactive approach to getting resumes out there."

So what are employers looking for? Experience seems to be the overriding requirement. "You need to gain experience any way you can these days – paid or unpaid," Mason says.

She added volunteering may not pay the bills but is the answer to solving the experience trap – students can't get experience without a job but can't get a job without experience.

Experience was also on the top of Lee's employable skills short list. The other asset of advantage to students, she notes, is technological savvy.

The information revolution has brought big changes to industry and students are amongst the most qualified to fill these job openings. It has also created the largest demand for qualified students, Tsang says. He points to the telecommunications and high technology industries as the newest and most active summer employers this season.

Kelly Schofield, a second-year sociology student, took the issue of summer work seriously and recently landed a position at a golf course in her home town of Brampton. Schofield says she was happy with her confirmed employment but says more has to be done to raise the income of students weighted down by an increasing debt load. "I think the government needs to instill a program granting post secondary students a higher minimum wage. The current minimum is just not enough," she says, adding last summer she made only half the amount needed to return to Western.

Raymont admits the provincial government has not seriously considered the issue of quality wages. Right now, he said the government is still worried about quantity.

"We recognize that there are still too many people on the sidelines of the economy. We are still trying to improve our program," Raymont states.

Ben Bayes is one of those individuals. The first-year science student has not yet found summer employment and is still not optimistic despite the positive youth labour trends. "I think its going to be pretty tough." he says.

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