Young adults, especially students can’t seem to find work in Calgary.
According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate for Albertans aged 15 to 24 years was 11.5 per cent in April 2023, up 0.7 percentage points from April 2022.
This percentage grows exponentially for students at the University of Calgary. Over the last two summers, one in five University of Calgary students who wanted full-time summer work were unable to find it.
Julian Romero, who is a current student at Mount Royal University, and a former student at the University of Calgary is now going on his third straight summer looking for a full-time job.
“It’s hard enough finding full-time seasonal work to begin with, finding full-time degree-specific work before graduating feels impossible at this point,” Romero said.
Programs for students like Romero used to exist in Alberta in the form of The Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP).
The search for summer work for students became increasingly more difficult after the United Conservative Party canceled STEP.
This program provided a wage subsidy to employers to incentivize the hiring of students for the summer months.
Thousands of students benefited from this program and its cancellation of it has made it more difficult for students to not only pay their bills but also gain the skills and experience they need after graduation.
With costs reaming high, the University of Calgary Students Association is looking to step in and help out students.
President of the University of Calgary Students’ Union Shaziah Jinnah Morsette says full-time summer work for students is more important than ever.
“Historic inflation, record tuition increases, and a worsening housing crisis, a student jobs program is the bare minimum, employers need workers, and students need jobs,” Morsette said.
“The Alberta government can’t tackle affordability without jobs programs for students.”
Short and long-term options
The Student Union has stepped up in the absence of the STEP program starting one of their own called the Students’ Union Program for Education Related Work (SUPERWork).
Here the Students Union provides a $1,000 wage subsidy award to University of Calgary undergraduate students who earn less than a competitive wage at a summer employment position related to their degree program.
The City of Calgary offers a diverse range of programs and services that appeals to students from several different fields of study, but applications close prior to the end of the winter semester (February 10 this year). This consistently gives students options for work but foresight is a must to lockdown a job through this avenue.
A year-round option for students is on the way with the launch of TalentED.
TalentED is a Government of Canada, Future Skills Centre, and Alberta’s Ministry of Advanced Education multimillion-dollar funded program that will partner with post-secondary institutions across the city like SAIT, Mount Royal University and The University of Calgary.
TalentED will connect students with local employers, enabling them to gain the on-the-job experience they need to jump-start their careers in Calgary.
The program is expected to launch in 2025.
Students who are still looking for immediate full-time work in Calgary can look to The Calgary Stampede as a viable short-term answer.
The Stampede hires 3,500 employees, from beverage servers to program assistants to youth campus workers for the annual celebration.
Another option is working directly for the Cowboys Music Festival at the Calgary Stampede.
Cowboys holds many hiring fairs in the weeks leading up to the Stampede and gives students a chance to earn a competitive full-time wage for the short term, while also building connections with their team leaders which can lead to flexible employment at their establishment in the future.