By Sabrina Almeida
If you have a son, daughter, niece or nephew looking for summer placement then you know what a struggle it is. Nobody really cares whether or not they find work except for you and them. Even employment agencies with so-called summer placements take their time… after all your need is greater than theirs. As a result hopeful candidates may find themselves at a loose end even a month (or more) later. The positions are few, the applicants too many and the reality is that almost no one wants to employ an inexperienced student these days. There is so such well-honed talent to choose from thanks to the hundreds of layoffs.
I know a first year university student who went through three interviews for a position in one of the mall stores. Another was put through the same process at a local grocery chain. Gone are the days when you could walk in and hand in your resume and find an opening. I have so many friends who did just a couple of years back.
Yes, they will still accept your resume with a smile and then put it in pile that no one will bother with after you’ve gone. “Everything goes through corporate these days,” one store manager offered by way of explanation. “They just bring us the people we need.”
Whether it is the Dominos down the street, the grocery store or the mall summer job-seekers will soon learn that they have embarked on an almost impossible task. Especially since it is short-term. “Doesn’t your mother know anyone?” my son’s friend asked him. For that is exactly how it is done. So if you have not secured a summer position through your “connections” good luck! Finding work could take all summer and is a job in itself, only you can’t put that in your resume. What’s more you can expect to have the same experience after you graduate, when the few goodwill positions evaporate. It shattered my hopes to have a 20-something with a bachelor’s degree hand my Dominos order to me. “All the resumes I receive are from graduates,” a furniture store manager reiterated. Meaning a bachelor’s degree holds no special value.
Riding the rollercoaster of summer jobs can be an even more harrowing experience for university students. It doesn’t matter what program you do, the job hunt is a great leveller. If you study out of town and are here for the summer or perhaps your course is too demanding to accommodate a job during the year, you’re at a big disadvantage. Whether it is retail, fast food or hospitality, typically the biggest employers of students, it doesn’t matter. As more high school students get into the fray (and can work throughout the year) many establishments will tell you pointedly that they’re not hiring just for the summer. I guessed some university students have found this out the hard way and hold on to their jobs throughout the year by doing the minimum hours they are required too. “A union protects their positions,” shared one friend whose daughter works at a popular grocery chain.
Added to the challenge is the job location. In Oakville and Burlington for instance there are many more positions available than in Mississauga or even Brampton for that matter. So while a young man I know went through a stringent screening process for a Mississauga grocery store, its sister operation in Oakville held an open house to recruit staff over the weekend. Why? I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.
Which gender you belong too also determines the opportunities that are open to you. Girls typically have better chance than boys both in retail and hospitality.
Few people would believe that the hiring process for retail stores, restaurants and fast food chains has started to mimic the corporate process. Phone screening, in-house interview, another meeting with management and what have you. You may try to put a positive spin on it and say they are becoming more professional or that it’s a learning experience for the youth. But in the end you have to agree it might be a little extreme. I guess it is all about demand and supply.
So when I met a lady on the train (whose line of work involved youth jobs) who told me there were plenty of jobs I bit my tongue really hard. Where are these jobs and how does one find them, I asked her. The answer was less forthcoming.
With companies axing internship and co-op positions due to smaller budgets and other industries less favourably disposed to seasonal employment where do the youth who seek summer jobs go? To another province like Alberta perhaps, where I am told there is no lack of opportunity… and it even pays more!