The deep freeze in Toronto last week likely had many U of T students wishing for summer. Although only months away, Canadian university students have learned that the prospect of their extended break is much less glamorous when they are unemployed.
Many U of T science students may have noticed that finding a full-time summer job in their respective field is much more complicated than it may seem. Often the job requirements for post-graduate positions outline something like “three years experience required.” How are students supposed to be accepted for a full-time position if they lack the significant experience the employer is seeking out?
One potential option supported by some U of T faculties is a scholarship provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). NSERC is a federally funded agency that provides students and professors funding for university-based research.
For many U of T students these positions will also provide much needed summer income. “The nserc award allowed me to pursue my research interests and form a great working relationship with my supervisor. These types of experience are invaluable for your CV,” explains Charlotte de Keyzer, a fourth-year student studying conservation biology.
The annual budget for NSERC is $1.1 billion, and a sizeable portion of this amount is available to undergraduates. Some science students will chose to combine their research with time in a new city, as some grants will cover travel costs.
Students who are looking for work in their field must also consider different work environments. “I learnt it was useful to gain work experience at different companies, to get a better feel for what it will be like after school, and what kind of workplace you want to work at,” says Adam Robinson-Yu, a Computer Science student currently completing a Profession Experience Year. “At the large company, you had to interface with other departments through fax or email, and it takes longer than small companies where you can walk over to the other departments. The large company was able to hold lots of grand events, and the pressure was a little lighter than it was at the small companies. The majority of the work is roughly the same, the environment you work at makes the biggest difference. The people and the attitude and stuff. [At Microsoft], the video-game atmosphere makes things pretty fun,” he said.
Not everyone is so lucky. Theri Reich, a third-year science student said that finding a voluteer position is much easier than finding a paid position. “Volunteering is so much easier to find than a job because it’s not paid.”
Though there are relevent job opportunities available, there are more students than there are positions. Many other students who don’t find such research positions try to fill their summers with odd or part-time jobs. Many students work in the restaurant industry or often at seasonal positions such as at golf courses or public pools in life-guarding positions — jobs without a direct connection to their field, but that will help to balance their budgets.
With files from Elena Gritzan