Deadline fast approaching for Canada Summer Jobs Program

Tourism and non-profit organizations that want to hire students have to apply for federal money by Feb. 2, but not everyone knows that.

The grant program known as SWASP not offered this year, volunteer groups disappointed

Penny Rowe, CEO of the Community Sector Council, says that over the years the SWASP helped to employ about 300 students with non-profit organizations every summer. (Paula Gale/CBC)

The federal government has cut a long-standing grant program for post-secondary students in Newfoundland and Labrador and groups looking for money to hire summer workers have to go a different route.

But the province's Community Sector Council worries not everyone knows about the change or the deadline for applying for money.

It was just a real honey of a little program, that small organizations all around the province really, really liked.- Penny Rowe

For the past 24 years, the council and the federal government offered the Student Work and Service Program, or SWASP, where students earned a tuition credit voucher for their community service.

The vouchers could be used at any post-secondary institution in the world.

"It was just a real honey of a little program, that small organizations all around the province really, really liked," said Penny Rowe, council CEO. 

"It was for community-based organizations for non-profits, so it really provided a wonderful opportunity for young people to get connected with activities in their home communities, and we found very often that this first taste of working in a community sector organization really gave them a taste for ongoing community engagement for volunteerism."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing spending on the Canada Summer Jobs program in Toronto. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

Over the years, the Community Sector Council and SWASP helped to employ about 300 students every summer.

"It was always wonderful to get the feedback from them, about how much they appreciated the concept of a voucher rather than just getting paid," Rowe said.

"It did kind of force them to save for their education — they weren't tempted to take it and spend it other places."

Changes this year

According to Rowe, the funds that were once available to the SWASP will now be transferred to the Canada Summer Jobs Program.

Hundreds of Cape Breton municipal employees will reach retirement age in the next few years. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

"It's really important that people in the province who generally apply to the SWASP know that we will not be available to them this year," Rowe said.

"Our applications were normally in April and May, but the deadline for the federal program is February 2."

Rowe is disappointed the SWASP was cut. She had always hoped it would be expanded to other provinces, since it had been working so well for students and organizations in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"It was such a wonderful, unique program. We always wondered why it didn't occur across the rest of the country," Rowe said.

"In their wisdom, they've decided to put their money back into the big pot."

Rowe now hopes the federal government remembers to include smaller organizations when they start hiring for the Canada Summer Jobs Program.

"While we're disappointed, we know we've had a real good run at this for 24 years," she said.

Prioritizing jobs that support youth with mental health issues

A spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada confirmed in an emailed statement that the federal government was reallocating the funds to the Canada Summer Jobs Program "to ensure more students in in Newfoundland and Labrador have the opportunity to expand their skills through paid summer employment."

In particular, the spokesperson said that with the reallocation of funds, the government will be "prioritizing jobs that focus on supporting youth with mental health challenges."

The spokesperson did not address the specific questions asked by CBC News in the statement.

With files from the St. John's Morning Show