Letters to the editor -
I write this letter concerning the federal government's summer student program. Students, small business owners and not-for-profit agencies benefit from this program during the summer months.
In the case of small business, half of the student salary up to 35 hours per week is paid by the program. Employers pay their share of Canada Pension and Employment Insurance.
Many business owners are familiar with the cumbersome application process that Service Canada saw fit to launch a few years ago. There was a major public outcry from not-for-profit agencies and small business owners, as many people were denied students. Politicians were beseiged with phone calls, the open line shows bombarded with calls and, because of this, the program was re-visited and more students were awarded jobs.
Fast forward to the summer of 2010. The number of weeks for the program was reduced from eight weeks to seven, and now Service Canada is calling employers to question how summer jobs were posted and if attempts were made by the businesses to hire within the application guidelines. In my opinion, this is an attempt by Service Canada to screen more business out, reduce the budget and eventually eliminate the program. Therefore, students and business owners must begin lobbying government to change the application process.
This is a case of a generic application that does not necessarily apply to rural areas of the country. Yes, we indicate in the application that we will hire according to the guidelines, however if the pool of students isn't available to choose from, should we then be denied a position and more importantly, should a student in rural Newfoundland be denied a job?
There has to be some consideration given to the business, as well. In my case, I re-hired a student who worked with me under the Canada Summer Job Program in 2009. This student, while young, is an excellent fit for my business and has plans to attend cooking school. Service Canada disagrees with my decision. The person I spoke with at Service Canada would not comment on how many other businesses had been contacted to question their application and subsequent hire of a student.
Officials who administer this program would be much better served if they visited these students in their work environment, interviewed them and observe the valuable skills they gain from summer work. The provincial government's summer work program is a straightforward process. The application process is simple to complete, students receive a tuition voucher and client service officers have visited students in the workplace. Obviously, the provincial government realizes the value of having students find employment during the summer.
As vice president of the Irish Loop Chamber of Commerce, I have requested the board of directors to arrange a meeting with MP Scott Andrews to discuss this program. I urge students, business owners and other chambers of commerce to do likewise.
J.A. Devine Witless Bay