For students like Frankie Leonard of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, working a summer job is an important step in planning for the future. But after the COVID-19 pandemic began, the idea of finding work this summer was up in the air.
Leonard, a senior at Memorial University working toward a bachelor of psychology, returned to Goose Bay from St. John’s in early March, and is continuing classes online after the cancelling of in-person classes.
“All my friends and roommates were leaving, and there was rumours that flights were going to stop then, but there was no cases in St. John’s at that point,” Leonard told CBC Labrador Morning. “So I decided to come home to finish up my courses.”
Leonard, who plans to attend law school at the University of New Brunswick in the fall, was planning to work at least two jobs this summer to help pay for her fall tuition. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, finding a job is up in the air.
“It definitely brings a lot of stress and anxiety on top of what’s already a stressful time for students,” Leonard said. “I thought I was going to be living in St. John’s this summer.
“Now I’m in Labrador, nothing lined up, no idea when things are going to open again. So I don’t even know if I should be reaching out to places right now.… It’s a really big up and down. Everything’s up in the air right now.”
Labrador MP Yvonne Jones says the issue of students finding summer work is a concern for the federal government.
“The programs that are currently provided by the federal government are not going to cover all of the financial challenges that Frankie is raising right now,” Jones said. “That’s where I think a lot of students are feeling some stress and financial pressure.”
The federal government has announced the suspension of the repayments of federal student loans, and working students can apply for an emergency wage subsidy.
Jones also noted the federal government passed a financial aid package to help employers bring on students for the summer, which will see government fund 100 per cent of wages for around 70,000 students in Canada.
“We will pay 100 per cent of the wages to any employer that will employ students over the summer,” Jones said. “We will be funding probably about 100-150 student jobs across Labrador. Whether that will be enough is going to be the question mark.”
Jones said the application process for businesses to apply for student job funding has begun.
“I think we’re still going to see a downward decline in the numbers of jobs available,” Jones said. “It’s an ongoing challenge, and one we’re continuing to work our way through right now.”