If you Google “summer jobs in Canada for university students” chances are the term FSWEP summer jobs will pop up. This odd acronym is short for Federal Student Work Experience Program. As far as cushy student jobs go, this is basically the jackpot. You probably won’t make as much money with these guys as you would planting trees, or fighting fires, but your paycheque will still look nicer than that of your counterparts working in retail and as baristas and you’ll probably get some pretty great perks like nice working conditions and great hours.
The FSWEP program is basically this giant umbrella organization of the federal government that seeks to list all of the job opportunities for students that the feds offer through all of their various agencies and programs. The benefit of this from a student’s perspective is that you can apply to multiple jobs fairly easily through the FSWEP application process. When students use the FSWEP application system they are asked to make a profile that provides various pieces of information about themselves. Since these profiles are used to filter potential applicants, I encourage students NOT to err on the side of modesty when thinking about their strengths and what they qualify for. The more positive attributes you claim/state, the higher your chances of making it on to short lists.
Working for The Man
The Canadian Federal Government employs a huge amount of people across Canada in a variety of roles. I myself was employed under this program as a Student Border Officer for the Canada Border Services Agency. Some other typical examples would be jobs involved with Canada’s parks, or the Federal Government’s tourism locations. FSWEP employs about 9,000 students each year out of a pool of 50,000 applicants. In order to boost your chances, remember the tip above about a lack of modesty being an advantage. In addition to that, I would recommend students consider applying to rural areas and checking off any boxes that say they will work unconventional hours far from urban centres.
The rates of pay for FSWEP are relatively standardized and are set by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. Depending on your schooling and your number of years in the program, you will find yourself somewhere on this table (source: FSWEP):
|Effective January 1, 2013|
|Academic Levels||Step 1||Step 2||Step 3||Step 4||Step 5||Step 6||Step 7||Step 8|
|College / CEGEP|
Once You’re In, It’s Tough To Kick You Out!
One great aspect of the government jobs that are filled through FSWEP is the proverbial foot one can get into the government’s door through the program. I know that from experience that if you can prove that you are not a complete screw-up your first summer, the agency you worked with will almost always hire you back. From their perspective, the administrators involved in the hiring process would obviously prefer to bring someone back that is familiar with the job and its responsibilities as opposed to hiring someone new. FSWEP even touts their record of retention over several summers. Just keep in contact throughout the school year, and you can likely nail down a job for next April when you leave in September.
Perhaps the more lucrative benefit of getting your foot in the door is the “bridging” option that FSWEP offers. The Feds realized in 1998 that this little summer program thing they had going was pretty much the perfect job screening tool. What better way to see what you were getting than to employ them as a student for a relatively low wage, and on a seasonal basis. It’s relatively easy to look good in an interview for 40 minutes – it’s much harder to hide your flaws or overemphasize your strengths over several summers of employment. Once the government realized this they created a streamlined process known as a “bridging mechanism” where students could jump right into a more permanent position within the agency. This is a huge advantage since job competitions for jobs with the Federal Government can be a difficult screen to get through. Once you’re fully in the government’s employment infrastructure, moving laterally to the long-term position you’re after, or the geographical location you prefer is usually a pretty straightforward process.
Perhaps the Best Option For a Liberal Arts Degree Today
If you are one of the thousands of students across Canada that have no idea how they will be parlaying their fancy B.A. degree in post-modern anti-capitalistic navel gazing into an actual paying job, the FSWEP program might be your best bet. If you can get into the Federal Government’s workforce and have a degree behind you, you can actually go quite far, or simply find a comfortable little niche for yourself. It never hurts to have government connections – especially at the Federal level.