Office sees spike in career appointments

Budget cuts could force staff reduction, Career Services director says

Career Services Director Paul Smith says the office’s busiest times of the year are from September to November and January to March.
Career Services Director Paul Smith says the office’s busiest times of the year are from September to November and January to March.
Journal File Photo

Career Services faces challenges keeping up with demand during its winter rush as students gear up for the summer job hunt, Career Services Director Paul Smith said.

“Last year we offered 2,500 one-on-one appointments and approximately 4,000 participated in workshops,” Smith told the Journal via e-mail, adding that more than 8,000 students attended employment or education fairs organized by the office.

The Career Services website also generates a lot of traffic, he said.

Smith said the goal of the service is to live up to its mission statement, which aims to “provide programs, resources and support that prepares students to manage their career transitions to work and further education.”

He said the office’s focuses are employment development, facilitated career education and self-directed learning.

“We also offer career counselling appointments, peer resume check and mock interview appointments, workshops, on-campus recruiting, on-line job postings, Queen’s internship program, the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience, Company Information Sessions, a web site that offers a vast array of useful information as well as many special career and education events during the year,” he said.

Career Services has the equivalent of 14 full-time staff, Smith said, adding that their busiest times of the year are from September to November and January to March.

He said the most-used services by students are their job posting system, resume and interview preparation and one-on-one counseling appointments, education and employment fairs and their information area.

“In the winter term we find students are coming to us for help with summer job search, resume preparation, and graduate school applications,” Smith said. “Students looking to go on internships, either domestic or international, also keep us busy.”

He said they also help students who are experiencing confusion over their degree or major choices.

“This year we are hearing a lot of anxiety about summer employment, which is understandable given the state of the economy,” Smith said, adding that last summer saw the highest student unemployment rate in decades.

According to Statistics Canada, the average unemployment rate for students aged 15 to 24 in the summer months of 2009 was 19.2 per cent, the second highest rate since 1977.

“Connected to this anxiety is student demand for help preparing with their job search skills, including resume and interview prep,” he said.

Smith said Career Services is also experiencing a greater demand for help with graduate school applications.

“This is not surprising: when jobs are harder to come by people often opt for additional education.”

Smith said although the situation seems to be slowly improving, students aren’t entirely safe from job search challenges for this summer.

“Finding a job is always a particular concern of students, even in the good times, and these are not the good times,” he said. “For the next couple of years students should be prepared to put in some extra work to successfully find their way into the labour market. … The best thing they can do is to spend time now preparing by identifying their values, their interests and their strengths, and getting their job search tools in order.”

Smith said the economy and the labour market move in cycles and he thinks this downward cycle won’t last.

“Economists tell us that employment is a lag indicator, meaning that when an economy changes directions, up or down, it can take a while for jobs to be affected,” he said.

Smith said Career Services is also feeling the strain of the recent budget issues at Queen’s.

“At Career Services we’re committed to helping Queen’s students to deal with the environment in which we find ourselves, but we are constrained,” he said.

Their budget has been around $1 million in the past few years. Their resources will be reduced by the approximate equivalent of one staff person’s salary in the next year, he said.

“Unless something changes we will be forced to continue rationalizing our services,” he said.

“The present situation comes on top of several consecutive years of cuts ... forcing us to stop offering services such as on-line career tools, and to cut back our acquisition budget for Information Area resources,” he said, adding that if things don’t change they may have fewer staff, which would lead to fewer counselling appointments.

“It’s frustrating for the students who can’t get an appointment, particularly at this time of higher student need, and additional service reductions may be inevitable in the current circumstances.”

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