Facing a summer of uncertainty in the midst of a pandemic, the province is helping businesses hire students who want to get work experience and save money.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/4/2020 (544 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg Free Press

Delivering Crucial Information.
Right Here.

Support this work for just $3.92/week

Facing a summer of uncertainty in the midst of a pandemic, the province is helping businesses hire students who want to get work experience and save money.

"We're initiating the largest summer student recovery plan in our province's history," Premier Brian Pallister said Friday.

Up to $120 million will be available for businesses and non-profit employers to access a $7-per-hour wage subsidy to a maximum of $5,000 per student.

Employers can be subsidized to hire up to five students - including international students between the ages of 15 and 29 working from May 1 to Sept. 4, Pallister said. Employers will be reimbursed at the end of the employment period after proving payment of student wages.

"The new wage subsidy program will support our students and connect them to summer jobs that help pay for their studies and also provide the opportunity to gain valuable work experience," Pallister said.

Manitoba is helping businesses hire students who want to get work experience and save money. Up to $120 million will be available for businesses and non-profit employers to access a $7-per-hour wage subsidy to a maximum of $5,000 per student. (Ruth Bonneville / WInnipeg Free Press)

Manitoba is helping businesses hire students who want to get work experience and save money. Up to $120 million will be available for businesses and non-profit employers to access a $7-per-hour wage subsidy to a maximum of $5,000 per student. (Ruth Bonneville / WInnipeg Free Press)

The jobs have to be in positions that adhere to current public-health orders and can adapt to any changes made by health officials over the summer. For the first two weeks of the program, priority will be given to employers who don't qualify for any federal government assistance programs, Pallister said.

The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce welcomed the program but noted many cash-strapped businesses may not be able to hire summer students at this time.

"There's such a level of uncertainty with employers and employees," said president Chuck Davidson. Employers may not be able to take advantage of the program that reimburses them after the summer job has ended.

"They need liquidity now," said Davidson.

Under a seperate $120-million program announced Wednesday, struggling businesses can apply for a no-interest loan of up to $6,000 from the Manitoba Gap Protection Program that would be forgiven at the end of the year if the business doesn't receive major non-repayable COVID-19 support from the federal government.

"That will assist to some degree in helping companies to leverage the support they need for hiring," said Pallister. Many companies are struggling to find workers as Canadians apply for federal emergency benefits and stay home, he said. "Our programs are designed to incent employers to create jobs for young people...not to pay people not to work but to encourage them to work."

Manitoba Chambers of Commerce President Chuck Davidson says his organization welcomes the program, but worries cash-strapped businesses may not be able to hire summer students. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Manitoba Chambers of Commerce President Chuck Davidson says his organization welcomes the program, but worries cash-strapped businesses may not be able to hire summer students. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Pallister urged students in Manitoba to opt for work experience, saying it will look better on their resume than not working and collecting benefits.

The president of the Red River College Students' Association said he's not aware of any students taking benefits because they don't want to work this summer. Their biggest challenge is getting hired, Josh Roopchand said.

"Trouble finding jobs -- it's something we hear throughout the country," said Roopchand, whose association is connected to others across Canada and trying to find ways to help students get hired this summer. "Right now, especially with COVID-19 it's a bit more tough."

There are a number of challenges facing employers trying to hire and re-hire workers during the pandemic, said Davidson.

"Some companies that are hiring sense some employees are not comfortable going to work," he said. Some employers who issued layoff notices can't get those workers to come back because they found other jobs. At the same time, tourism, hospitality and retail sectors that hire so many summer students are waiting to to find out when some of the public-health orders are going to be lifted so they can plan for reopening, he said.

"That's what everybody's waiting for," said Davidson. Saskatchewan's gradual re-opening plan that can be scaled back if there's a COVID-19 outbreak is encouraging, he said. "We all need to be nimble. The last thing we want to see is for all businesses to have to shut down."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

   Read full biography