Recession hits Laurier co-ops

The current economic recession has found its way into co-op departments at universities across the region.

While more students are looking to co-op as means of employment, there are simply fewer jobs available to them.

“There is more competition from other schools; it is a tighter market,” said Karen McCarger, associate director of Laurier’s department of co-operative education.

“Employers are not able to provide opportunities as early in the term; there are more last minute opportunities that come up. We have also seen a decrease in the number of weeks an employer can offer a job for.”

McCarger noted that many employers are waiting longer to see if they have the funding to support students for a work term; and therefore, the jobs are being posted much later than usual.

“Arts and science jobs don’t come up as early, particularly those with non-profit organizations, because often they are dependent on [government] funding,” said McCarger.

In arts and science, 64 per cent of students have placements compared to last year’s 74 per cent, but only nine fewer students have jobs due to an increase in the number of students in co-op.

According to McCarger, the employment rate for business co-op in the May to August work term is at 85 per cent compared to last year’s 90 per cent. However, the number of students enrolled in co-op is much higher this year. At this point, there are only four fewer students that are employed than at this time last year.

The situation appears similar at the University of Waterloo. “We’re actually ahead this year in number of students employed,” said Olaf Naese, media relations with co-op education and career services at UW. According to Naese, 3,429 students were employed at this time last year. This year 3,569 students have jobs.

“To have to find that many extra jobs, it was a challenge and we have certainly [have] all felt the pressure,” said Naese.

At UW, engineering and math co-ops are being hit the hardest.

“The job numbers are not as high as we would like to see…those are our two biggest programs and they’re suffering the most,” said Naese. 91 per cent of arts students have jobs at UW and 318 students are still looking for arts co-op.

At Laurier jobs in the automotive and chartered accounting industry have had the largest decrease in opportunities.

In a conference call with the student media John Milloy, minister of training, colleges and universities, addressed the issue of student jobs and what the government is doing.

“We’re certainly doing everything we can to support students and putting every effort into it.”
Milloy noted that the government is providing additional funding and resources for summer students. The government itself is offering subsidies to businesses who want to hire students, giving them $2 hour as an incentive to bring on a summer student.

As the recession continues to hit job markets across the country, both McCarger and Naese predict that the number of students who look to co-op for employment will increase.
“It will continue to be a challenge, but we just have to keep working hard to uncover employment opportunities,” said McCarger. “We’ve been much more aggressive this year.”

“I think that students might look more towards co-op as a benefit to the situation,” said Nease. Our challenge is ‘can we rise to meet that challenge?’”

*Sidebar: What is WLU co-op doing to help students?
Coordinators have visited over 500 employers in both the private and public sectors in the last year in person to market the program.

We have also done a telemarketing campaign to 1700 contacts during April and early May to uncover as many opportunities as possible.

There were also 50 different events we attended to promote the program as well as an email campaign to market the co-op tax credit as well as opportunities to still hire students for the summer and upcoming fall terms.