New grant to provide Western social science students with full-time jobs after graduating

A new program from Western University and the London Economic Development Corporation aims to give new grads full-time jobs in London.

Pilot program will help city hold onto new talent, give grads a leg up in tough job market

In its first year, the Social Science Career Apprenticeship pilot program will provide positions for up to 10 graduates. More than 60 students have already applied. Those who make it through the selection process can start their positions as soon as May. (Sara Jabakhanji/CBC)

A new program in partnership with Western University and the London Economic Development Corporation aims to give recent grads full-time jobs in London to help the city hold onto new talent.

Students from the university's Faculty of Social Science will have the opportunity to apply for one of up to 10 paid, 12-month apprenticeship jobs in the first year of the Social Science Career Apprenticeship pilot program.

The program incentivizes companies to hire new grads by covering the first four months of the new hire's salary.

Alan Rottenberg, whose grant is funding the program, has sponsored similar apprenticeship programs at other Ontario and B.C. universities. 

"We have to be positive about the future, and to be positive you've got to do something positive," Rottenberg said.

"The whole purpose of this program is to make sure that they get into the job market as quickly as possible in a career job as opposed to being unemployed." 

Rottenberg said that watching his two sons and their friends struggle to get their first jobs out of university made him realize new grads needed a leg up. 

Predecessors to the London program have had high success rates — after three years, about 90 per cent of the Queen's graduates hired through the initial pilot program in Kingston, Ont. were still employed with the companies that hired them.

Rottenberg said that the goal is to get new grads through that tough first year by giving them the opportunity to be successful with a company. 

"Kingston, London, Hamilton, and so on, these cities all need young people," Rottenberg said. "The demographics of those communities are not right and we need young people to stay in those communities to build them." 

Western is home to around 40,000 students from cities across Canada and nearly 130 countries worldwide. Last year, more than 6,500 of Western's students were enrolled in a Social Science program.

The four-month salary subsidy will give local businesses the opportunity to "rejuvenate their workforce," said Joan Finegan, Western's acting Social Sciences dean.

There's a reason for pushing new grads into career jobs as quickly as possible. According to Rottenberg, the gap in outcomes for those who don't get work right away, versus those who do, is dramatic. 

"Many of these hires stay on," said Rottenberg. "But we know students who are underemployed or unemployed upon graduation suffer a five-year lag versus students who land their first career-related job right out of university."

Applications for the program are now open, and students who are accepted can begin their positions as early as May.