UWI, UTech students lament limited part-time job opportunities

UWI, UTech students lament limited part-time job opportunities

Sunday, January 26, 2020

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With the start of a new semester last week for most university students, many are seeking part-time job opportunities as they resume full-time studies.

According to students from The University of the West Indies and the University of Technology Jamaica, there are not enough part-time or flexible job opportunities for full-time students in Jamaica.

Each academic year there are more students being enrolled at the university level, which means more graduates to vie for vacancies on an already saturated job market. Students believe that with the provision of more part-time opportunities, the transition from student to graduate would be smoother for most students.

Javaune Sewell, a second-year University of Technology student, agrees that there are not enough part-time opportunities for full-time students. He said as a full-time student he observed that the opportunities provided most times require long hours with menial pay.

Ruth-Ann Berley of The UWI also said job opportunities were scarce. Berley stated that “The Government should provide more jobs that pay us reasonably, because most of us can't find bus fare to come to school and not to mention student loans repayment.”

The final year student said the provision of better employment for students would impact the class schedule for most working students and allow them to attend classes regularly and on time.

Seasonal employment is a huge part of the picture for many full-time students, as this is more accommodating of the structure for each semester and the holiday period.

Sian Brown, a final-year student who is seasonally employed by an event management/promotional agency said that scarce employment opportunities is a national complaint and doesn't just exist within the university environment. “What I think is necessary is for both The UWI and the Government to come together and create employment programmes encompassing the various academic fields, providing fresh, enthusiastic and creative brains with projects and activities that will increase their development.”

She continued: “The students of today will become the leaders and creators of tomorrow, hence it is necessary to nurture their passions and skills as early as possible.”

Brown expressed that these programmes would be mutually beneficial as students will be appreciative of the training and mentorship within the fields they are pursuing, and becoming familiar with its culture from an early stage. Simultaneously, the companies will be privileged to new perspectives, which may be the catalyst to their advancement. The final-year UWI student said that companies will be able to circulate more resources, provide new products and services, and thereby receive more business. She added that said companies will be able to maintain relevancy as youthful employees can provide pop-culture incite.

A third-year student at The UWI, Kandice Thompson expressed that, “Most of us do not get work experience before leaving university, and most employers want a degree and experience so there is some obvious dissonance there that needs to be resolved. “She stressed that, “they have to open up the field to students, and slowly erode and dismantle 'links culture' where only the well connected, not necessarily the most qualified, get employed.”

Thompson highlighted that though there are job opportunities specific to each discipline that pops up, “those are the rare coveted spots”. The student added that most of the time, graduate studies students cop these positions, leaving undergraduate students to grapple with fees and the general day-to-day costs of attending university, all on a tight budget.

UWI, Mona Guild President Christina Williams in agreeing that there is a lack of opportunities, stated that the university also needs to look at the best practices of the top schools in other countries.

A crucial part of student affairs at many internationally accredited universities are well executed career and recruitment fairs. Through these channels students are provided with opportunities on and off campus. “The UWI has a very marketable brand, it's the top university in the Caribbean and it's among the top four per cent universities in the world,” Williams expressed.

The president said that given this achievement, more can be done by the university to better equip its students and graduates for the real world of work. “I'm quite sure that the public sector and private sector wants to partner with the university to be able to adequately develop students,” Williams stated.

Continuing student at The UWI, Gabrielle Clarke also pointed out that the Government should work with universities to provide paid internships with public companies or private allies.

The guild president emphasised that the university needs to take a stronger approach to provide opportunities for students and to build bridges for them to access public and private sector jobs. However, she also stated that “students need to be more aggressive and intentional about seeking opportunities”.

Founder of University and College Ambassadors (UCA) Jamaica, Kristofferson Nunes echoed similar sentiments, stating that students need to start thinking like entrepreneurs. Nunes believes that many students fail to cop job opportunities because they are not fully aware of what they want in their industry. He said students should be specific about what they want on the job market and simply go for it. “Students are sitting and waiting for a company to post about a position,” he said.

Nunes believes that once the skill set is there many students should put themselves out there. “If people want to make it in Jamaica, they have to be creative, and though there are gaps in certain fields, a few employment opportunities are there.”

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