A recently-expanded program that allows students to collect Employment Insurance while at college or university on P.E.I. is getting a lot of interest, but it will be more difficult for students in Charlottetown to take advantage of it.

The Career Connect program accepts applications from students who are P.E.I. residents, have been out of high school for at least three months, are eligible for EI, and are in an eligible training program.

In April, Career Connect was expanded to include university programs. Previously it was aimed at college students.

"The program has received a lot of interest since its announcement," said Blair Aitkin, of Skills PEI.

"The idea behind it was to extend support to university students who are able to qualify to be able to draw EI while they attend class."

But UPEI students still face a barrier if they live on, or close to, the UPEI campus.

P.E.I. EI regions map

People in the Charlottetown region need to work longer hours to be eligible for EI. (Government of Canada)

In 2014 the federal government split the Island into two EI zones: the metropolitan area of Charlottetown — which extends to two sections of the North Shore, and from around New Haven in the west and Fort Augustus in the east — and the rest of the province.

In the Charlottetown zone, students would require 665 hours of work to qualify for EI. In the rest of the province they would require just 420 hours.

In terms of summer employment, that's 16.6 weeks full time for students in Charlottetown, and 10.5 weeks for those outside.

"It is totally dependent on their ability to qualify for EI," said Aitkin.

Aitkin said the program was not just designed with students taking summer employment in mind. It is also aimed at people who may not have attended school for some years.

With files from Mainstreet