Place for students to find work

WorkBC employment centre in downtown municipal building

Nadège Rioux and Karoline deVries at the Work BC Employment Services Centre.

Nadège Rioux and Karoline deVries at the Work BC Employment Services Centre.

The intent was to get kids to do what they do best, go online to get what they need.

But the Hire a Student website operated by Service Canada offers little help, so students may have to do what their parents did, visit a job centre to find a way to earn some scratch for the summer months.

With youth employment centres no longer existing, students now will have to visit the WorkBC Employment Services Centre, in the municipal building in downtown Maple Ridge, and compete with adults for jobs.

“Anybody over 15 years old should come down and see us. This is going to be your best [chance],” said Karoline deVries, who manages the centre in Maple Ridge.

The WorkBC centre last week offered a youth employment workshop and may do so again if there’s demand.

While students may find it hard to find a job, they may also find it hard to find the job centre.

Many still don’t know who WorkBC is. “They don’t know us. They don’t know who we are.”

The new umbrella agency gets both provincial and federal money and offers all employment programs in the province at its WorkBC Employment Services Centres.

As word spreads, though, more kids should make their way in. “Some of them are still in school yet.”

DeVries said it’s always difficult for students to find work, no matter what the economic conditions. Last year, about 300 kids visited the centre, with July and August being the busiest months.

“The numbers of youth coming in the door will definitely increase. Some of them are still in school yet.”

The top three occupations for students are fast food restaurants, working in stores and shops, then labouring positions, such as at a construction site.

The first two pay minimum wage, $10.25 an hour, but construction work can have a student earning $15 or $16 an hour.

Still, making the transition from the classroom to the work world, even if it’s for the summer, can be difficult.

“They just don’t know where to start.” That’s where they need some help in bringing out the skills they learned in school activities or volunteering or sports. “How do you bring it forward and put it in a written format that employers will recognize? That’s what we have to help with.”

DeVries hadn’t heard of any temporary foreign workers in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows area. However, seasonal agricultural workers from Mexico are working on Pitt Meadows berry farms.

Working on a farm or harvesting a crop is a job sector that students seem to want to stay well clear of, deVries reports. “They don’t want to do dirty work. And they attest that it’s really hard work and it’s hot and it’s dirty and it’s dusty.”

Still, that can provide skills and experience for a resume.

The federal government funded the Canada Summer Jobs program, which provides funds to employers to create summer jobs. But the deadline for applying was Feb. 28.