Close to a million students between the ages of 15 and 24 enter the job market during the summer, and nearly 100,000 students take part in co-op programs. Professions such as engineering, law, architecture, healthcare, human resources, business, public sector professions, technology, insurance, and law enforcement, offer a variety of internships during the summer break.
At this point in the year (April), many students have already gone through rigorous interview processes and have secured summer internships. They were looking forward to a summer where they could build key relationships that would move their career forward and gain some much-needed income, however, the COVID-19 pandemic changed all of that. COVID-19 had shut down large sections of the economy, forcing an unprecedented number of workers, including students, out of work and creating major economic uncertainty.
Organizations such as the United Steel Workers, Sick Kids, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, the RCMP and the Canada Border Service Agency have cancelled or suspended their summer internships due to COVID19. Moreover, some students who have already received offers have had them rescinded, others have had their start dates pushed back indefinitely, leaving them in a precarious position.
On March 18, 2020, the federal government launched its Canada Emergency Response Benefit (or CERB) to pay workers who’ve lost all income $2,000 a month in emergency payments for four months. However, so far, no financial assistance has been offered to students who were not working before COVID-19 and whose summer job prospects have been limited drastically. For more answers read employees’ frequently asked questions and COVID-19.
Recently, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced temporary changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program to help students over the summer months. Employers that participate in the program receive a 100% minimum wage subsidy for hiring full time and part-time students, aged 15 to 30. The government has carved out $263 million for the program this year in the hopes of creating up to 70,000 jobs for young people, however, not every student will receive one of these summer jobs.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian government has created a Federal Wage Subsidy program to assist employers during the economic uncertainty caused by the virus. Employers that provide articling contracts for law students may have the option to rely on the Federal Wage Subsidy program to continue previously accepted articling contracts. This could be a viable method for employers to receive assistance with interns’ wages. The Federal Wage Subsidy program provides employers with a 75% wage subsidy for employees hired after March 15, 2020, up to $847 per week. In its current form, it extends wage assistance up to June 6, 2020.
Canada Emergency Student Benefit and Student Grants
Canada Emergency Student Benefit
On Wednesday, April 22, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new benefit program. The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) will be available to students who are currently enrolled in college or university, plan to begin in September or have graduated in December 2019. On May 1, 2020, Bill C-15 received royal assent and the Canada Emergency Student Benefit Act was enacted. The CESB will provide students, including those earning less than $1000 each month, with $1,250 per month from May to August 2020. Students who provide care for dependent family members or who have a disability can qualify for up to $2,000 per month in benefits.
Additionally, the benefit has also been extended to high school graduates who will be starting post-secondary studies before February 1, 2021 and Canadian students who are studying abroad. There is no age limit to CESB eligibility, however, students must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents; international students do not qualify for the program. Students who apply for the CESB can continue to find work and earn up to $1,000 per month while receiving the benefit. Further, every applicant will be directed to a government-administered job bank in order to keep students connected to job opportunities.
Students will be able to apply for the benefit via CRA MyAccount. The CESB application will be open starting May 15, 2020 via CRA MyAccount or over the phone at 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041. Just like the CERB, eligible students must reapply for the CESB for each four-week period and must meet the eligibility criteria each time. No documents are required to apply however, students should have documents readily available if they are requested. The benefit will be available for four months from May 2020 to August 2020 but students will be able to retroactively apply for this benefit until September 30, 2020.
CESB Eligibility and $1000 Income-Earning Limit Exemptions
The CESB will be available to both part-time and full-time post-secondary students, as well as summer students. Canadians in apprenticeship programs who meet the eligibility criteria will also receive the benefit.
International students, temporary workers who have a SIN beginning with “9”, and non-resident students with international tax numbers are not eligible for the CESB. Additionally, high school students who have not graduated will also be ineligible for the benefit.
Although there is a $1000 (gross) maximum income-earning limit while receiving the CESB, there is no limit to the amount of money students receive from student grants and loans, scholarships, bursaries, or graduate stipends. Moreover, this limit exemption also expands to bursaries or educational funding for indigenous students through the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP).
Canada Student Service Grant
On April 22, 2020, the Prime Minister also announced a new program called the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG) which provides between $1,000 and $5,000 of benefits to student volunteers who are working in programs related to COVID-19, under a new National Service initiative. More details are to follow in the next upcoming weeks.
Making the Best of a Stressful Situation
Although the idea of losing your internship is stressful and worrisome, here are a few things you can do prepare for a possible job and still make the best of your summer:
1. Remote Work
Some companies are actually continuing their summer programs amid the pandemic. While it may not be feasible for all types of jobs, working remotely may be an option. If your boss or mentor advises you that the company may be cancelling their internship program or stopping specific work, ask if you can possibly work from home and still add value to the project or company. This may allow you to still engage with the meaningful summer job, internship, or research project you had planned. Baycrest, a research and learning hospital although cancelling international summer internships is exploring ways to incorporate remote opportunities into their summer program for local students. Various other marketing and engineering companies, such as Amazon, BMO, Mastercard, Microsoft, Baker & McKenzie are still offering remote summer internships. More companies are sure to explore, at least the potential for remote internships and summer jobs as well.
2. Start your own project
Students can also make the most of their summer by starting their own projects. Think about what you are passionate about, and how you can explore it while doing some good in the world, which is really needed right now. Whether it is wellness, environmental awareness or improving your local community, start by thinking about what you care about and what changes or improvements you’d like to see in your life and the lives of those around you. Then you can create a website, a non-profit, or host a virtual community-based event.
While continuing to apply for available summer jobs, build those multitasking skills. Use this time to conduct your own research with the guidance of a remote mentor; there is a wealth of online resources available and you can choose a topic that will build your knowledge base and enhance your future applications. With no distractions, you can also start drafting essays that can be used for subsequent grad school applications. Also take this time to prepare for your future and study for upcoming standardized exams such as the MCAT, LSAT, or GMAT. Organize your future; make a list of what you want to accomplish and what steps are required to get there. This gives you something positive to focus on. Even something as simple as reading a good book feeds your mind and enhances your writing skills while exploring new topics. Lastly, stay positive, this is just a hiccup in your academic career. Focus on what is in your control and set yourself up for success when this pandemic ultimately comes to an end.
NEW: On June 18, 2020, the federal government officially launched the Canada Student Service Grant, which will create 10,000 jobs aimed at encouraging students to volunteer in the fight against COVID-19. The grant was announced more than two months ago, and its launch is just in time for those who haven’t been able to find a summer job.
Prime Minister Trudeau also announced a substantial increase in funding for a host of other existing programs, like Canada Summer Jobs, aimed at creating thousands of new opportunities for youth.
In addition to the CESB and student grant programs, there are others in the works like the enhancement of the Canada Student Loans Program and extension of expiring federal graduate research scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships. Additionally, a six-month interest-free moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student Loans is in place.
Author: Danielle Rawlinson is an employment lawyer at Monkhouse Law. We can help you navigate the workplace challenges posed by the coronavirus related measures. Give us a call if you need assistance at 416-907-9249 or fill out this quick form for a callback request.