Students find work with top employers

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By Tara Deschamps

Not many Ryerson students can say they’ve helped build a digital database for a nuclear energy company.

Third-year computer engineering student Shim Patel can.

The Bruce Power employee is just one of many who credits gaining valuable work experience to a company recently listed as one of the top 100 employers for young people in Canada.

The list was released last Thursday by Canada’s Top 100 Employers organization. It features companies like Bombardier Aerospace, the Peel Regional Police department and furniture retailer Ikea.

The companies on the list were chosen based on the opportunities, support and benefits they offer young people.

According to Patel, students who are employed at Bruce Power are allowed to work on important projects that students employed elsewhere usually don’t get the chance to do.

“They give you as much responsibility as they would to any other employee,” Patel said. “They really teach you a lot and give you an experience that you can write on your resumé.” In addition to work experience, Patel said he thinks Bruce Power and other companies made the list because of the flexible work hours they offer employees.

When Patel was unable to access a car to travel to work, he said his employer worked with him to find a solution.

“When I first got the job, my manager asked if I could come in at 8 a.m,” Patel said. “The manager was really understanding when I explained that I needed to get a ride from a friend because I don’t have access to a car. So the company allows me to start at 8:30 a.m. as long as I complete an eight-hour shift.”

It’s experiences like this that Gerald Hunt, professor at Ted Rogers School of Business Management, says are important to young student workers.

“I don’t think where or what the job is is important to students, as long as there’s flexibility and no harassment,” Hunt said.

Arti Panday, a third-year journalism student and customer service representative for Rogers Communications Inc., which also landed a spot on the Top 100 list, agrees.

“I think when young people are looking for a job they factor in convenience, pay, and flexible hours,” Panday said.

Hunt said that companies who hire current students experience tight turnaround periods because many students are juggling school and work, and don’t make longterm commitments to the companies they work for.

Companies who aim to hire students after graduation have different priorities, Hunt said.

“They have more money to play with and they want to keep their employees pumped up and ready to go,” he said. “They’re concerned with [the] talent pool and longterm prospects.”

However, there are some companies, like Canada’s largest grocery Loblaw Companies Ltd., that attribute their spot on the list to the way they accommodate both current students and young graduates.

For student workers, Loblaw offers access to discounts, vacation allowances, volunteer grants and a tuition reimbursement program.

“Working part-time provides students with flexibility and the opportunity to earn money while attending school,” said Loblaw’s executive vice president of human resources and labour relations, Judy McCrie. “Moreover, the fulltime opportunities available at Loblaw leverages a student’s postsecondary education to help grow a long term career within the company.”

McCrie said that since 2009, Loblaw has hired over 400 young employees through their Grad @ Loblaw program. The program allows new graduates to spend 18 months rotating experiences in various roles before being placed in a specific department.

Hunt said graduate students are attractive to companies like Loblaw because they are often educated, eager and enthusiastic.

“Companies want fresh, new blood out of university or college programs with up-to-date experience who are motivated, lively, much more likely to take on an organizational behaviour and who are open to learning pretty quickly,” he said.

It’s a sentiment that McCrie echos.

“From store level to distribution centres to head office, Loblaw believes that young people bring enthusiasm, innovation and progressive thinking to the work environment.”

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