St. Thomas University employment and financial aid coordinator, Trish Murray-Zelmer, wants students to focus on what they can control amid changes to the Student Employment Experience Development (SEED) program.
Murray-Zelmer said her office is telling students to get started on their summer job searches.
“It may not be the system you want right now. But at least for another year, we’re going to have the system. So what can you do? What is within your control?”
SEED is a government program that provides funding so post-secondary students can get a summer job and gain work experience. On Jan. 21, Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Trevor Holder announced multiple changes to the program. Under the previous model, students applied for funding and were chosen randomly through a lottery system. It’s now the responsibility of the employer to apply for funding for their organization.
Previously, if students received the SEED voucher they could apply to a variety of jobs in the SEED job bank or approach an employer they wanted to work with and discuss job opportunities.
Murray-Zelmer said the old system gave students more control over their job searches.
Holder said the way it worked was unfair.
“You could go four years through university and never get drawn,” said Holder.
Under the new program only non-profit organizations, First Nations communities and municipalities can receive funding, and MLAs are able to recommend organizations in their riding they believe deserve funding. Approximately 200 student placements have been cut as well.
STU Students’ Union President Husoni Raymond said he sees it as limiting work opportunities for students.
“What if there is a business student that wanted to work for a startup over the summer or a small business? But now all those working opportunities are limited.”
Executive director of the New Brunswick Student Alliance Kjeld-Mizpah Conyers-Steede said while focusing on funding for non-profits, First Nations communities and municipalities is important, he worries about the process becoming politicalized.
“Those organizations really are the bedrock of our province and they do the jobs no one really wants to do,” said Conyers-Steede.
Fredericton South Green Party MLA David Coon said involving MLAs opens up students to political abuse.
“[MLAs] can say things like, ‘I’m willing to give your organization the money it’s looking for to hire summer students if you hire the daughter of the riding president,’” said Coon.
Holder said MLAs will not be involved in the hiring process and the funding recommendations may or may not be followed.
“The argument is that the MLA is close to the community and understands what the needs are of the non-profit in his or her area would be, rather than somebody in an office in Fredericton randomly deciding,” Holder said.
STUSU President Raymond said he wants students to know the students’ union is just as surprised as everyone else and that no student organization was consulted.
“We will continue to advocate for accessible working opportunities for students, and that will continue to be our number one priority throughout the year.”
Murray-Zelmer recommends students start reaching out to potential employers now to build relationships because a lot of the employers may already know who they’re going to hire before the jobs are posted.
Murray-Zelmer said all students looking for summer work should attend STU’s Hacking the Summer Job Search and Career Fair workshop. The workshop will provide information on SEED changes, how to reach out to employers and inform students on all the summer job programs available.
The workshop takes place every Monday from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in George Martin Hall room 301 and every Friday from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
“I know it’s a super hard sell but that’s why in the workshop we’re like ‘Okay this is what you say.’ We’re providing scripts because we know going out to talk to somebody you don’t know is super intimidating.”