Hire a student for the summer, help them for life 

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With spring comes the flurry of applications for work from students, some still in high school, but most at university.

Before you "file" that application consider that if employers don't give students a chance they can never get the work experience they need. Indeed for many professions you can't get into graduate programs if you don't have work experience in the field.

Over the last few years Pique has hired new staff, and as harsh as it sounds, if the applicant has not worked in the field during university, or completed internships, they don't even get an interview.

Yes, it's hard out there. The jobless rate for Canadians aged 15 to 24 stands at 13.6 per cent, almost double the unemployment rate of 6.9 per cent for all ages according to Statistics Canada. And according to a 2013 BMO survey B.C. students expect to graduate with an average debt of $34,866, the highest in Canada.

In recent months there has been a lot of discussion about the stress university students are under, as they work toward getting a skill that can be translated into the workforce.

According to a Sun Life Financial Canada survey, 90 per cent of Canadians aged 18 to 24 are excessively stressed.

That stress comes from not just concerns over getting a job upon graduation, but also the amount of debt they incur along the way.

"Student stress levels are troubling," Jonny Morris, a director with the Canadian Mental Health Association's B.C.'s division told the Province on April 20.

"I find it worrying when over a third of students say stress significantly impacts their ability to perform academically."

According to Statistics Canada, data on tuition costs from 1975 to 2013, analyzed by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the average number of minimum-wage hours needed to pay for an undergraduate degree in 1975 was 230. That number went up nearly 2.5 times to 570 by 2013.

Behind the hours needed is, of course, the increase in tuition fees, and not unexpectedly the greatest increase was seen in the professional faculties. For example medical degree fees annually in 1975 were $715. In 2013 they were $12,438. How about law? In 1975 fees were $565 now they are $10,030, and dentistry — a jump from $683 to $17,324 (http://apps.policyalternatives.ca/).

Put another way a dentistry student would work 286 hours at minimum hour job in 1975 to afford tuition. In 2013 the same student would have to work 1,711 hours to pay for tuition — that's 213 days, in essence working almost full time.

How about getting a BA or a BSc? In 1975 an arts degree was $534, in 2013 it's $5,079. Sciences have gone from $550 to 5,484.

According to the report: "B.C saw the most rapid tuition increases in Canada from 1977 to 1987 under two Social Credit governments. NDP governments froze tuition in 1995 and reduced it in 2001. Liberals permitted record-breaking increases in 2002 to 2005 then reversed course.

"B.C. undergraduate tuition is now below the national average for all degrees except education and medicine.

"Students in B.C. today have to work more than 2.7 times as many hours to cover average tuition costs as students in 1975."

Many students do get financial support from the institutions they attend — Whistler students are amongst that number getting several scholarships to pursue their educational goals.

And it's not uncommon for students in the professions to get lines of credit from banks to cover costs.

Added to this financial stress is the sheer competition for summer jobs. According to the Huffington Post added into this mix are about 20,000 youth workers who come to Canada for work experience.

It is an amazing experience to travel and work, and in the long run it can ensure that workers have a measure of maturity and confidence you might not get any other way than by broadening your horizons.

But that's a lot of extra competition for our students as well. Canada will welcome up to 750 workers from Chile, Taiwan will send 1,000, Ireland will send 10,700, to name a few countries.

There are 32 countries participating in the program, called "International Experience Canada," said the Huffington Post in and April 24 blog by Vanessa Routley, a lawyer and commentator specializing in Canadian immigration and foreign-worker issues.

"The government of Canada, in all its wisdom, begins accepting applications for these programs from December through April, making sure most of the foreign youth workers arrive at the exact time (students) have finished... exams and need a job," she wrote.

But don't hire students just because it is socially responsible, or as an act of charity.

These young people need to be challenged, and pushed, and given a chance because they are the future not just of Whistler, but of B.C. and Canada as well.


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