Students get real life experience through wage subsidy program

So… you’re just finishing your second year in radio and television arts at a Toronto university. It’s summer and you need at least 16 weeks of solid work to earn the money for next year’s education. You’ve got some choices… you can wait tables or tend bar at a summer night spot (good for the wallet but challenging in a personal way). You can grab a paintbrush and sign up with one of the student painting outfits.

Gee… if life was perfect, you could earn 16 weeks of income AND use what you’ve already learned at school. If only…

It’s that kind of philosophy that landed two students absolutely wonderful summer jobs in Barrie this year. Lesley Saliwonchyk, 21, of Kitchener and Ryan Fairley, 23, of Cookstown were both hired by Shaw Cable under the federal government’s Summer Career Placement Program.

The program gives employers a wage “top-up” if they hire students for summer placement. It’s one of the best programs to come out of the Human Resources Development Canada program designed to enhance hiring policies and make it easier for employers to provide meaningful work for full time students.

Both Lesley and Ryan sing the praises of both the wage subsidy program, delivered through a partnership of services out of 80 Bradford St., and their summer employer, Shaw Cable.

While Lesley is a Radio and Television Arts student from Ryerson University, Ryan is an Image Arts student there. Both are heading into their third year of study, half way through their programs. When Lesley’s relatives saw a notice about the job opening and the wage subsidy program on Shaw Cable, they contacted her and she applied to the program and to Shaw Cable. When the match between employee and employer was made, Lesley joined the team at Shaw Cable. Her job this summer has been as producer/reporter. She identifies potential stories, researches them, sets up interviews and then she and Ryan, who films the stories, head out to record the entire event for airing on Shaw Cable.

The situation is a win-win-win! The students win. Shaw Cable wins, because as staff take summer holidays, the cable station is able to continue its local coverage. Viewers win because local content fills the airwaves.

Lesley says she and Ryan have been generating a story a day since starting their summer positions. They work weekdays and have high praise for their summer experience. “It’s so nice to have an employment program that recognizes our need to make money for school next year, and our desire to work in our field of study,” says Lesley. “I’m using my education to continue my education.”

As a Kitchener resident, working in the Barrie area has been a pleasant experience for Lesley. “This area is full of historic sites and interesting stories. Shaw is definitely a community station. As a student in Toronto I work at CBC, YTV and on larger scale productions. There you never hear from anybody. Here in Barrie I get feedback immediately from our viewers… it’s a different environment, close, friendly, and the people at Shaw have treated Ryan and I as equals. Barrie has a small town appeal even though it’s a large city.”

Lesley hopes she can connect with Shaw in Toronto when she returns to school and says she’s grateful for the hands-on experience this summer has given her in studio production and electronic field productions.

Her personal favourite show to work on was a story on the blood donor clinics…lots of good interview possibilities and great film footage potential.

When Lesley finishes school she’s interested in pursuing work on air or as a producer. She’s particularly interested in children’s programming.

The Summer Career Placement Program has been an unqualified success this year, with 178 summer positions funded through HRDC. To be eligible for the program, students must have been in school last year and returning to school this September. They can be in secondary or post secondary situations. Businesses with positions for school students can also register with the wage subsidy program where staff will help make a match.

Vicki Hannan, Project Consultant explains that employers advertise, interview and hire their own student employees and the Targetted Wage people make the link. The business can be private enterprise, a public entity or a not for profit corporation, and work must be a minimum of six weeks and a maximum of 16 weeks with 30-40 hours a week in order to qualify. Organizers of the program have developed carefully the strategies so full time workers aren’t bumped in order to take advantage of the program.

It sounds like a good program and while it’s too late to take advantage of it this summer, you might want to think about it for next summer. For more information, you can call Vicki at 727-7977.

Meanwhile local cable viewers have benefitted from the fresh approach Lesley and Ryan have brought to local airwaves this summer.

Thanks, Lesley. Thanks, Ryan. Thanks, HRDC!