From Electricity Human Resources Canada’s Director of Programs, Mark Chapeskie.
We find ourselves in an unprecedented, global pandemic, and no sector is operating as usual. Even the electricity sector, which is working to keep the lights on across Canada, is making changes to prioritize the health and safety of staff and communities while keeping important utilities operating.
We’ve heard from employers that are uncertain if they should continue placing students as part of our Empowering Futures Program. We’ve discussed this a great deal, and we strongly believe that with the right safety and operational supports in place, you should continue to hire students for co-op and other placements. Here’s why:
- Having a full and capable workforce, including your student positions, is essential to keeping operations running smoothly.
- These students need to have experience to be able to successfully transition into work after graduation and the pandemic is over. When you hire students, you’re on-boarding your future employees.
- Large parts of our economy and education system are being disrupted. Employing students helps keep their education on track and the pay is much needed for their bills.
Empowering Futures is still available, and our team is here to support you with your work-integrated learning needs.
While we believe you should continue hiring students, it is important to make sure you’re providing a safe and healthy work environment to the best of your ability. We have some advice that can also help you with that:
- We’ve published a useful guide for employers on how to plan and adapt with the pandemic.
- We’re regularly updating a collection of resources from experts and health authorities across Canada.
- Keep in mind that many students are new to work environments: it’s a good idea to spend additional time on health and safety, especially around preventing the spread of COVID-19.
- Make sure you have a robust sick leave policy, remote working policy, and other processes in place to handle sick or quarantined employees (including those in student positions).
I know this is a difficult time, and we’re all learning and adapting our operations constantly. As much as possible, and as safe as possible, we must ensure the continuity of our work and the economic and educational impacts it has. Don’t forget: we’re in this together, and EHRC is here to support you.
This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Student Work Placement Program.