By J.W. Schnarr
Students who lost their footing under PC cuts are going to find themselves back in STEP.
Back in April, the provincial government announced it was bringing back the Summer Temporary Employment Program to help create an estimated 3,000 summer jobs for students. The government has pledged $10 million annually to the program.
On May 26, Premier Rachel Notley said while the program probably won’t be back this summer; it is expected to be in full swing for 2016.
“It’s unlikely that we will be able to bring back the program this summer as we are too far into the summer season to get the full benefits of it,” said Notley during a press conference last week.
“We are examining other phased ways we can bring it back, and without question, it will be back by next summer.”
The PC party axed the program in 2013, and former Premier Alison Redford faced criticism from community groups for calling it a “crutch.” The 2013 budget allocated $7 million to the final year of the program.
Taber Mayor Henk De Vlieger said the town has used the program in the past, and that he was familiar with it from his days with the Taber Chamber of Commerce, where the program was also used to take on extra summer staff.
“I’m quite positive that, if it’s back, the town will be using it for summer students,” he said. He noted the chamber has also made use of the program in the past, hiring student staff to help with day-to-day operations and with Cornfest activities.
De Vlieger said the extra help through the summer means more projects that could benefit local residents over the summer months.
“If STEP is there, we can do more things in the summer, like more activities,” he said. “It definitely will have an impact on what gets done. But also I think it will be a help for some students to get jobs, which, in itself, is good, too, because it helps them with their studies and teaches them responsibilities. There are a couple good things for STEP. It benefits students, and it benefits, municipalities as well.”
STEP was established in 1972 by former Premier Peter Lougheed in 1972 and ran for more than 40 years. It is used by municipalities, non-profit groups, and community organizations to create summer jobs for students could not otherwise be created. The provincial government shared the cost of the wages with employers.
The province sees step as a way for employers to discover new talent while providing important learning experiences and skills-development opportunities for students.