Student employment program gets $4M injection, though questions linger

Student employment program gets $4M injection, though questions linger

One Fredericton student says applying for the Student Employment Experience Development (SEED) program is like playing the lottery — and not in a good way.

Brianna Matchett, a student at St. Thomas University, applied for SEED last week and said while the process was easy, it's getting the job that's hard.

"I don't have much hope for participating in the program," she said.

She said you basically put your name in and hope it gets drawn.

"Companies and non-profits can get funding but people can't apply for these jobs unless you win this lottery," said Matchett.

Matchett has applied for SEED twice and only has been successful once.

She said she sees places looking for students with SEED vouchers but if you don't get one you can't take advantage of the program.

New funding

The Gallant government announced Tuesday it's adding $4 million in funding to the program in order to create 400 more placements this year. That brings the total number of jobs to 2,000.

It will also increase the placement for college and graduating high school students to nine weeks from eight weeks and university students will now have 14-week placements instead of 10.

Non-profit sector employers and First Nations communities will get 100 per cent funding for minimum wage for 35 hours a week for up to 14 weeks, said Stephanie Bilodeau, spokeswoman for the Department of Labour, Employment and Population Growth.

Private sector and municipalities will get 50 per cent of minimum wage for 35 hours a week for up to 14 weeks.

'Empty gesture'

But Matchett said that doesn't give her much comfort.

"That almost feels like an empty gesture because they are just giving $4 million dollars to these students who win this lottery," she said.

She doesn't believe this will help.

"Last year there was still 1,500 people on the waiting list," she said. "Yes, they're creating 200 or 400 more jobs but those jobs aren't accessible to people."

Bilodeau did say every year there is more interest than opportunities.

"In general, each year there are roughly 1,500 employers sometimes offering up to three or four jobs," said Bilodeau.

The SEED program was revised in 2016 but the new process created problems for both students and employers.

Many organizations, which had long relied on the program, and students who needed jobs, complained about the new process.

Then-minister Donald Arseneault said there were problems with the implementation of the revised program.

Bilodeau said this revised program was launched to take the politics out of the application process.

"Students interested in obtaining a SEED job must complete an online application at NBseed.ca," she said. "Prospective employers must also register on this site in order to become an eligible employer. Students will then be able to choose to apply for the positions most suited to them or their field of study."

She said co-ordinators from the department are available to assist both employers and students.

However, Matchett said she thinks the SEED program should be more flexible in allowing both employers and students choose where they want to work and who they want to hire.