The Graduate: Pandemic Edition

Resources for CapU alumni in uncertain times

Megan Amato // Opinions Editor 

The pressure to enter the job force right after graduation is one familiar to many alumni. Amid a global pandemic that has affected almost every industry—for better or worse—finding a job to support yourself or your family, pay off your student loans or fulfill the requirements of your student visa is more precarious than ever. 

Not everyone has access to university and many students have to take out high-interest government or bank loans to pay for the privilege to attend. Recently, the House of Commons endorsed an extension of the moratorium on federal student loan repayments and interest until May 2021. However, no action has yet been taken from it and graduates from the spring semester have received repayment notices due at the end of December. Alumni unable to make their repayments can apply for the Repayment Assistance Program (RAP) on the National Student Loans Service Centre (NSLSC) website

International students are especially vulnerable to the effect the pandemic has had on the job market as many are far away from their families, may be unable to return home and depend on finding a job to honour their visa requirements. 

“I have found that the hiring process was much slower and I didn’t hear back from a lot of the companies I applied to [and] not a lot of people want to hire someone who has a 20-hour weekly limit on their permit,” said Sheila Arellano, an Interdisciplinary Studies graduate who is seeking a job in publishing. “I [also] worry about the barriers I might face in the workforce as a bisexual Mexican immigrant, but I know the publishing and editing industry is inclusive, at least in my experience, and a lot of employers are opening their doors to create a more diverse environment in the labour market.”

Graduating students have access to all of the CSU’s resources, including health and dental insurance, and community support for a full term after their last registration date. “[Alumni] are a member for one registration period after their last classes, so if a student graduated in the spring, but took classes in the summer, then they would be a ‘member’ until the end of December,” said Emily Bridge, President of the Capilano Students’ Union. “But if a student last took classes in the fall and graduated in the Spring, they would still cease to be a member at the end of April.” 

The CSU continues to advocate for students and alumni on a federal and provincial level. “We sent out a letter in support of an eviction ban, which has since been lifted,” said Bridge, regarding the ban that was placed at the beginning of lockdown. “Our provincial advocacy group, the [Alliance of BC Students], is still advocating on this issue and wants to see the eviction ban reinstated.” The CSU has also been working with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) to campaign for more grants, bursaries, and financial aid for students and alumni. Bridge encourages everyone to apply for the BC Recovery Benefit.

CapU alumni also have lifetime access to the Career Development Centre (CDC) and can always make appointments, attend their events and seminars. Nancy Ng, CDC Manager, wants students and alumni to feel confident in their career trajectory. “The job market is recovering. It has already bounced back faster than it had in the last recession,” said Ng, adding that employers are becoming more flexible when it comes to working online. “It has also opened up the market for remote work across Canada. Sure, it means more competition but also more opportunities.” 

International students are also welcome at the CDC, and while they legally can’t give advice on visas, advisors are more than happy to help with the job search. “Since the first time I went to the CDC, the advisors were all super helpful,” said Arellano. “They showed me where I could find opportunities for the type of job I was seeking and even took the extra time to make sure my resume and cover letter stood out.”

The CDC will be partnering with Douglas College in March to put on a virtual job fair highlighting businesses in the lower mainland who are hiring or will be hiring.

More information on resources for students and alumni can be found at www.Canada.ca

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Megan Amato

Opinions Editor | Columns Editor

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