Job market salaries and low paying entry-level jobs are the main cause of college and university graduates being more anxious and worried for the future, says a student life expert.
Post-secondary graduates seeking employment in their field are struggling to find jobs in the COVID-19 pandemic era, which has become an even more trying time.
“If you were a recent graduate, if I was a recent graduate, I’d be significantly concerned about not only my job prospects, but whether even if I get a job, will I be able to sustain myself?” said Jason Baryluk General Manager for the College Student Alliance.
According to a June 2021 report from Statistics Canada, in May of 2020 at a peak time in the COVID-19 pandemic, 28 per cent of post secondary students were mostly intending to continue with their current student jobs after their academic terms ended.
The survey also showed that 21 per cent of students ended up losing their jobs, while 34 per cent were laid off two months later, and 26 per cent had their hours cut.
At the same time, however, the survey conducted by Marc Frenette, Tomasz Handler and Ping Ching Winnie Chan found that pay rates had increased during the school months of 2020 because of the withdrawal of lower-paying jobs held by young Canadians.
The unemployment rate among young Canadians aged 15-24 reached an all-time high by May 2020 at 29.4 per cent and remained well above the normal average of 14 per cent by the end of 2020, even reaching 17.7 per cent by December of that year.
The study also found that above average youth unemployment rates during the year of graduation often have repercussions for years down the road.
Historically, even several years later, those above average unemployment rates been associated with significantly lower earnings for high school, college and bachelor’s degree graduates.
The impact of COVID-19 has affect graduates in certain areas more than others.
Natalia Porzycki a nursing student at Humber College who is on the verge of graduating had studied nursing before but took a break to focus on working to pay off student loans. She returned to her studies in the midst of the pandemic.
“I graduated in 2016 but I had to take my NCLEX which you to be licensed by Ontario Colleges of Nurses,” she told Humber News.
“I got an email saying if you don’t update your education, then these are your options. You can’t just do the NCLEX anymore. I had to update my education to be a nurse.”
Porzycki ended up having to take extra online classes that were required for her to to take her NXCLEX which during that time she worked two part-time jobs and doing school assignments.
“It cost $360 plus tax,” she said. “It is a big exam that takes six hours.”
Porzycki said she is nervous about finding a job in nursing after she graduates since it has been tough for her during the pandemic and she is still repaying her student loans.
The Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) is a major factor for many students fund their post-secondary education.
With COVID simmering down and hopefully eventually being a memory, repayment of student loans will still be a reality despite the federal government announcing in its 2021 federal budget that it will freeze interest rates on student loans until March 2023.
“A credible party for the [next] election needs to move immediately to provide assistance for students in terms of student loans, but also could come in the form of an actual freeze on repayments,” Baryluk said
Baryluk said that more needs to done to support students and there’s a lot of talk about how Canada is going to come out of the pandemic but not about helping graduates get jobs.
“Getting college graduates into the workforce, getting them good paying jobs, and getting them well established, all contributes significantly to the economy,” he said.
“We have to do what we can to support them to ensure their success and a smooth transition from school.”
For international students, getting a post-secondary education in Canada means paying double what domestic students pay, plus the process of finding work in this country is difficult.
“I’m graduating and I’m not only looking for jobs, but I have to look for a job that is permanent,” said Gabi Hentschke, a fourth-year Bachelor student of International Development at Humber College.
Hentschke came to Canada from Brazil to study and work and said she was fortunate to find a job during school and a work placement that paid her during the summer during her study period.
Now she is looking for permanent work after graduation.
“It cannot be a contract and it has to be at a given level called NOC so that I’m eligible to apply for permanent residency to get my documents eventually, like, become a Canadian citizen.”
A study by Eden Crossman, Yuqian Lu and Feng Hou of Statistics Canada, looked at the increases created in the labour market by the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program for international students in Canada
The number of permits issued to international students from 2008-2019 increased 2.8 times from 45,900 to 173,000 in Canada.
The federal program allows international students who have graduated from a Canadian postsecondary institution to gain work experience in Canada. The program can provide the job experience requirement to apply for permanent residence.
Hentschke says it can be stressful for international student who want to go through the whole immigration process.
“You have to look out for lots of different things in the jobs that you are applying for,” she told Humber News.
The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance does writes policy briefs, holds meetings and raises concerns about student issues to the government
Eunice Oladejo, a recent graduate and the Vice President of External Affairs of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance in Toronto, told Humber News that her group’s job is to support and draw attention to student concerns.
“We’re mostly amplifying those concerns, but within our student union members, we’re always consulting with students on each of our campuses,” said Oladejo, who explained the her group researches in order to develop policies they then advocate on.
“We’re always open to hear what the most precious pressing or current issues are,” she said.
For students who are getting ready to graduate and are worried about the challenges in finding a job, Hentschke says that there are many great opportunities out there.
“It’s a very difficult time and just the fact that we’re graduating, it’s such a shift from what we’re used to – from being in school for so long then suddenly, we’re not gonna be in school anymore.”
Hentschke’s advice to post-secondary students feeling doubts about their education is to keep seeing it as a unique experience with a whole community supporting them and with access to many different resources.