Work terms in short supply for MUN business students as pandemic progresses
Students missing out on crucial real-world experience, creating concerns for graduation and future careers
Work terms for many students at Memorial University are being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving them anxious about their future careers.
Cecilia Oxford, a fourth-year bachelor of commerce student, lost her planned work term at a national accounting firm, leaving her worried about meeting graduation requirements, and entering the job market.
"I got a call on Monday just saying that, given the circumstances of the pandemic, that the firm wasn't hiring, they weren't taking any students for the summer," she said.
"It was definitely a disappointment."
Oxford said on-the-job training during work terms has made her more confident and prepared for the working world. She said it gives students professional experience, like using specific software programs, working with clients, and managing time.
Oxford's classmate Jeanine Callahan has also had her work term cancelled.
"I was scheduled to continue working with a previous employer. Due to the lack of work that they now have because of COVID-19 I have lost that work term. That now puts me back to the job competition," said Callahan.
"Right now the jobs are very few," she said.
MUN offering students positions
Oxford and Callahan are just a two of more than 30 business students without a work term this summer.
Positions for students are evaporating, as firms that normally host students shift to having employees working from home to adhere to physical distancing measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.
"It's because they cannot offer remote work," said Isabelle Dostaler, dean of the business faculty.
She said work terms, which are about experiential learning, are a major part of the school's bachelor of commerce program.
"Oil is a big provider of work terms and in this case, it is proving to be a challenge," said Dostaler.
If you qualify for the federal funding please look into it and think about hiring a work term student. We are here to help the economy right now.- Jeanine Callahan
The dean says the faculty is trying to create alternatives for students using MUN's Centre for Entrepreneurship. "Profs are hiring students to do projects with them," she said. Dostaler is also encouraging students to be entrepreneurial and develop their own businesses.
"All these homemade masks, for example, we know that could be a very good business in years to come," said Dostaler.
Work terms are graduation requirements for students in co-operative education programs, like business and engineering.
Dostaler said the faculty is trying to create alternatives for students who have had their placements cancelled, including creating 10 to 15 positions for students at the Centre for Entrepreneurship.
Still, Dostaler said the school will have to be flexible and is facing decisions about waiving work terms and some graduation requirements.
"If we have to sacrifice a work term, it's not impossible, but we need to make sure that some learning comes out of it," she said.
Always opportunities in business
Oxford plans to do some courses online over the summer and do a work report on the impact COVID-19 is having on small business to meet her requirements. Callahan, meanwhile, is encouraging businesses to take advantage of federal funding to hire students.
As the economy constricts, and unpredictability reigns, the job market is becoming more and more uncertain for new graduates.
"If there's no job around, sometimes it's a good idea to come to stay in school and continue studying," said Dostaler.
But in business, she said, there are always opportunities, pointing to the popularity of video-conferencing technology by companies like Zoom, being used by people to work and communicate with others.
"Look at what's happening with a company like Zoom at the moment. So there's lots of industries for which this crisis is an opportunity."