Parimal Parikh says many international students he recently interviewed for a job at his South Asian grocery store were emotional.
Parikh owns Namaste Indian Supermarket in Windsor and was looking to hire for seven positions.
"They started crying and started explaining their financial crisis and what they were facing in Windsor," he said.
"They started crying when they didn't know the answers to the questions we were asking. And we tried our best to listen to them and try to comfort them."
Parikh says he posted the hiring call out via social media, expecting 60 to 100 people to show up.
What he ended up getting was nearly 400 people, some lining up 90 minutes before the interview period began, says Parikh.
"It got a little crazy," he said.
"We started working on the backups … instead of one interviewer we had two more interviewers."
Parikh says they were able to make time to see 250 applicants and he really appreciated how patient and understanding everyone was.
Parimal Parikh owns a South Asian grocery store in Windsor, Ont., that saw hundreds of international students show up to apply for seven posted positions at the supermarket. (Parimal Parikh)
"I know that might be a lot, but I didn't want them to go disappointed that they didn't even get a chance to get into the interview after standing up to three hours in the line."
According to Parikh, the work situation for many international students in Windsor is much worse than some people might think.
"When you go deep down to the roots, it's very sad right now."
Kelsey Santarossa says her heart goes out to international students who are in a financial crisis — doing their best to secure work amidst heavy competition.
The manager of community projects for Workforce WindsorEssex says there isn't a specific unemployment rate for international students, calling it a "hard subset of our population to drill right down."
However, she says to get a better understanding of the overall student unemployment rate, the number is usually double of the regular population. Windsor's August unemployment rate, according to Statistics Canada, was at 5.8 per cent.
"It's really tough with the restrictions that are put in place for international students, they can't work full time while they're in school," said Santarossa.
"They have that 20 hour cap. It makes it tougher, I think, to find some of those more sustainable opportunities."
International students are shown at a Windsor, Ont., bus stop. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)
Santarossa says there are still concerns from employers surrounding language barriers and a lack of Canadian work experience.
For part-time job prospects, she says, it's just as competitive.
"If we see on average of maybe 700 job postings a month that are part time, it really only represents 20 per cent of the available job postings. That's for the entire Windsor-Essex region."
She says jobs are still often being filled through traditional word of mouth or through family or friends — which makes it far more difficult for international students.
Various online tools can help bridge the gap, but getting out and being seen, in-person, still goes a long way to landing a job, according to Santarossa.
"This is a really entrepreneurial group, right? I mean, they're hitting the pavement and making sure they're out there and handing out resumes. Any time that we can get employers in front of them and them in front of employers to kind of reduce that barrier of sending a resume into the void … it really does help be able to put a face to a name to really make sure that they're the right fit."
Kelsey Santarossa is the manager of community development projects for Workforce WindsorEssex. (TJ Dhir/CBC News)
Picsume, a Windsor-founded tech company, held its first job fair at the WFCU Centre on Wednesday.
Ahead of the job fair, Santarossa said she wouldn't be shocked if international students were well represented.
"We need to, collectively as a community, to start thinking about ways that we can support [colleges and universities] in the same way that the employer here in this case was posting specifically for international students — recognizing how many folks are available to fill those needs."
Santarossa says international students now have greater opportunities to become permanent residents — which means employers don't necessarily have to risk losing them after graduation.
"There are better and clearer pathways for international students to stay in Canada to keep those skills here."
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