Nova Scotia

Shuttle service aims to connect CBU students with rural employers

A new program from Cape Breton University will help students find work in rural areas by offering a daily shuttle service between July and October.

'It's just hard to find people who will stay and be committed for 6 months of the year,' says Danielle Sampson

Rodger Cuzner, MP for Cape Breton-Canso, left, and David C. Dingwall, president and vice-chancellor of Cape Breton University, stand with two shuttle vehicles. (Cape Breton University)

A new program from Cape Breton University (CBU) will help students find work in rural areas by offering a daily shuttle service between July and October.

The program aims to address labour shortages reported by seasonal businesses in Victoria, Inverness and Richmond counties.

The program is for students seeking seasonal employment in the summer and fall, but don't have transportation to get to areas outside of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. While the program is open to all students, international ones are being targeted for participation.

As of February, international students accounted for 2,600 of the university's roughly 5,000 students.

The Bras d'Or Lakes Inn in St. Peter's is one of the businesses who signed up for the program.

Danielle Sampson is a partner at the inn. She said they have trouble finding workers in the restaurant, which operates from May to October.

Bras d'Or Lakes Inn in St. Peter's is one of the businesses who signed up for the program. (Submitted by Nicholas MacNeil)

"This program was a really good fit for us because the international students would be finished school at the same time when we need to ramp up our staffing," Sampson said. "And traditionally, we do have a hard time filling certain roles in this business."

The inn posted kitchen positions such as line cooks, prep cooks and chefs back in April and received a tremendous amount of interest from CBU students.

But Sampson said one of the issues was a lack of transportation to and from St. Peter's.

"It's just hard to find people who will stay and be committed for six months of the year," she said. "Most people are looking for full-time work."

Sampson said two students participating in the program will begin working at the restaurant this week.

How the program was conceived

In an interview with CBC's Mainstreet Cape Breton, John Mayich, director of student affairs at CBU, said the program was created after strategic planning sessions suggested there was a labour shortage on the island, primarily in the tourism sector.

About 500 students expressed interest in the program when a student survey was sent out in June. 

"It lines up well with the growth that we've seen in the international student market. We have more students coming to campus. They're looking for seasonal employment and trying to get out into these communities," Mayich said. "And they want to see a bit of the island as well."

He said one of the problems the shuttle service solves is it means students don't have to find housing where they would be working.

"Employers were saying, 'You know, we'd love to hire them, but there's really nowhere in the community for them to stay over the summer months,'" Mayich said.

The program is expected to start this week. To date, 170 resumés have been received and there are 13 employers interested who have 24 positions to fill.

Mayich said one challenge will be scheduling the shuttle service so it works for both students and employers.

CBU has four vans and they are currently hiring drivers.

The program will be funded by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and CBU over the next two years, with ACOA providing $350,000 and the university contributing $306,314.

With files from CBC's Mainstreet Cape Breton

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