'People are going to be left in a pinch': Students, employment recruiters get ready for end of CERB
Staffing consultant expects rush of job-seekers as CERB winds down this fall
Ottawa's plan to wind down its COVID-19 emergency response benefit program by the end of September and move most recipients over to Employment Insurance (EI) has some students worried they'll be left in the lurch.
Like many young Canadians, third-year Toronto university student Spencer Julien is getting nervous with his CERB benefits coming to an end soon while his work prospects remain dim.
"The government really hasn't presented a viable option to get students through this school year," he said.
The federal government announced Thursday that it's extending the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) by one more month and revamping the employment insurance program to allow more people to receive financial assistance during COVID-19.
Measures include greater flexibility on the work hours required for EI, making it easier for people to qualify for a one-year period.
Canadians who were already eligible for EI will transition to that program when CERB winds down on Sept. 27, while those who don't qualify can apply for new "recovery" benefits.
But Julien says students, in particular, seem to have fallen through the cracks of continued COVID supports.
"It's unfortunate that the government hasn't accepted the reality of many students that this might be the fall that they might have to drop out of school because they don't have the money to go back," he said.
Cristina Schultz, with the Calgary-based employment agency About Staffing, says many firms that were forced to lay off employees because of the pandemic are starting to rehire staff — and finding it's not so easy.
"Now we're starting to see the trend of, they're in the position to bring these people back into the workforce, and they don't want to come back," she said.
"They're comfortable and confident that CERB is giving them what they need."
Schultz says some employers are getting quite frustrated that laid-off or furloughed workers don't seem to want their jobs back now.
"So they're actually replacing a lot of these people. That's a lot of the recruits that we're experiencing now, it's actually a replacement for those who are not willing to come back into the workforce," she said.
Schultz says the trend is particularly noticeable in lower-end corporate jobs such as administrators and receptionists.
"Those are the individuals who are making similar, if not more, on CERB," she said.
Expecting a rush
But Schultz says she's expecting a rush of job-seekers as the CERB winds down.
So her company is shifting part of its focus to help them make the transition.
"What steps you do you need to take in order to go from unemployed to employed, because there is going to be that desperation. There's no doubt about it that people are going to be left in a pinch when this transition happens, if they're not preparing for it already," she said.
Her advice: get out and make connections.
"It's all about the people that you know. You hear that all the time," she said. "Get out there, start now. It's never too late to start and it's never too early to begin."
And because the unemployment rate is at such a historic high, competition will be very tight for job seekers.
"You have to find a way to differentiate yourself," she said.
With files from Carolyn Dunn