Youth and COVID-19: How to find jobs and expand networks

June 24, 2020

Over the last few months, thousands of jobs for young Canadians simply vanished, while many more never appeared in the first place. And as resilient as they may be to the health impacts of the COVID-19 virus, countless young Canadians feel the economic impacts of the pandemic. 

Recent research from the International Labour Organization – an agency of the UN – helps illustrate this grim picture on a global level. Their figures show that young people who still had jobs this past spring saw their working hours cut by 23%. 

Here at home, the overall jobs picture is brighter. After losing more than three million jobs in March and April, Statistics Canada reported on June 5 that Canada’s economy actually added 290,000 jobs in May. However, digging deeper into that same report reveals a more daunting story for young Canadians. In May, the unemployment rate for returning students, as StatsCan wrote, “surged to 40.3%”.

Time will tell if these trend lines continue. But students want jobs now to help pay for post-secondary schooling, to use their time constructively, and – in some cases – to manage mental health issues amid the pandemic. 

There are many ways to navigate these challenges. Let’s start with the federal government.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit

The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) provides financial support to post-secondary students, and recent post-secondary and high school graduates who are unable to find work due to COVID-19. This benefit is for students who do not qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or Employment Insurance (EI).

From May to August of this year, the CESB provides a payment to eligible students of $1,250 for each 4-week period within that time span, or $2,000 for each 4-week period if the applicant has dependents or a disability.

There are several eligibility criteria, and it’s strongly recommended that applicants review these carefully. For example, at least one of the following has to apply:

  • you are enrolled in a post-secondary educational program (at least 12 weeks in duration) that leads to a degree, diploma, or certificate;
  • you completed or ended your post-secondary studies in December 2019 or later;
  • you completed or expect to complete high school, or received, or expect to receive your high school equivalency in 2020, and have applied for a post-secondary educational program that starts before February 1, 2021.

Uptake on the CESB has been strong. As of June 4, the program had received 522,085 approved applications since it was launched. During this time, Ottawa paid out $713 million to qualified applicants.

Youth Job Bank 

Once students have applied for the CESB, they can start their job search with the federal Job Bank. After creating an account, students can browse for jobs of interest, including Canada Summer Jobs (i.e., positions for Canadians aged 15 to 30) available across the country. New postings are being added all the time as they’re approved for funding by the Canada Summer Jobs program.

In using the Job Bank, young Canadians can also add positions to a “favourites” list, and get notified by email when new jobs matching their preferences are advertised. The site also helps young people build a professional resume. 

These are useful tools for job seekers. They’re also a way the government can keep track of who is using them. As their website says, students “may be asked to submit a report on your ongoing job search activities while receiving the Canada Emergency Student Benefit.”

Online mentoring

Readers of a certain age will remember the old Yellow Pages tag line of “reach out and touch someone”. In today’s COVID context, online options such as Zoom, Teams and FaceTime are the conduits of choice to reach out. 

No one knows the online world better than youth. So industrious young people can take the time this pandemic has given many of them to connect virtually with local leaders in conversations about skills development, community volunteering and career paths.

Leaders at community foundations, for instance, are fountains of knowledge. They engage to connect, and they are intimately connected to local needs and opportunities. It’s the same with leaders at chambers of commerce, places of worship and local service groups, among others.

This sort of outreach can expand young people’s networks, thus their job potential. And for kids still in high school, online mentoring can lead to volunteer experiences that could help differentiate their post-secondary applications. Think of it as investing now for the long term.

Overseas experiences on hold, for now

With international travel bans still in place – or in some cases slowly lifting, with many restrictions still in place – pursuing overseas intern and work experiences will be on hold for a while a come. That internship in London or that au pair job in France will have to wait.

Yet, as I wrote about last month in talking about travel, it’s more likely a question of postponing overseas job aspirations than canceling them outright. This will pass, eventually. So, as their chosen overseas destinations evolve with COVID, young Canadians can actively – and patiently – follow emerging news in those countries and prepare themselves to be ready to launch at the appropriate time.

Moving forward with optimism

As I know from our own two teenagers, young Canadians today are both energetic and restless in the face of COVID. It can be a tricky balance at times, and some young people are having a much harder time than others. 

However, with the help of targeted government programs and some online platforms, they can match their passions to job opportunities and enhance their career networking in moving through and beyond the pandemic stronger than ever.

Steven Bright, a longtime client of the firm, has worked in and written about financial services for more than 25 years. You can find him on LinkedIn.