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HomeOpinionDC Works isn't working

DC Works isn’t working

Not all college students come from families with the money to cover tuition. Many must pay for school themselves, find housing and buy food while somehow finding time to go to class.

Durham College’s on-campus employment program, DC Works, is meant to give students with financial needs access to well-paying jobs while they study.

It’s also supposed to provide support roles to centres on campus that do great work for the college.

It’s meant to, but it doesn’t. DC Works is broken, and the college is worse for it.

Today, the Durham College Hired Portal shows 74 listings for on-campus jobs for domestic students, but none for those studying abroad.

A screenshot of the DC Get Hired Portal, showing 74 DC Works jobs available, and a note that IWorks is no longer available.
As of Sept. 27, DC's Get Hired Portal shows 74 DC Works jobs available, but none for IWorks. Photo credit: Andrew Neary

International students have a short window to find jobs on campus before funding dries up, and with the college growing the international student body each year, these jobs are getting rarer and more competitive.

Alex Chasse, the Senior Career Coach at Durham College’s Career Development Office, said part of the disparity may be the gap in funding.

She said International on-campus jobs, I Works, “are funded through our International Office, while the DC Works is funded through our Financial Aid Office.”

Chasse said, “They have a certain budget so that allocation goes toward a certain number of students, and I don’t know what the exact numbers are, but it does tend to be less than what, say, the domestic volume is.”

Janine Knight-Grofe, director of international education at Durham College, said it took three weeks to fill every International Works job on campus, despite her office doubling the number of available roles this year.

Meanwhile, dozens of DC Works jobs remain unfilled, many posted for months without any applications.

FastStartDC, Durham College’s entrepreneurship centre, posted jobs for graphic design and photography students six months ago, only now filling a few positions.

Sundar Manku, manager of DC’s entrepreneurship services, said his office has only filled two out of seven open domestic student positions.

He said for every open position at FastStart, his office gets “eight or ten applications from international students, but for domestic students, we probably got one over the summer and then none during the school year.”

And these jobs aren’t just for show. Faculty need students in these roles to support the work they do.

Without Work Study staff, FastStartDC can’t offer student entrepreneurs free logo, branding and photography services, a major selling point of the program.

Chasse said the students her office hires do important work.

“They’re out there promoting opportunities, highlighting if anything is coming up, anything in terms of events,” she said. “They also help us in terms of promoting job opportunities or even posting the jobs.”

“That’s something we don’t necessarily have the opportunity to do, so the students really do help us in reaching out.”

Tiera Singh, the outreach coordinator for Career Development at DC, said faculty and staff are often “very focused on our task and objectives,” and without support from students “[tasks] kind of get lost.”

And the campus community benefits when students fill these roles.

More student employment on campus means better communication about opportunities and events at DC, and fewer students stressed about income while they study.

Work Study is extremely flexible when it comes to hours, capping at 12 hours per week of work time but shrinking and flexing to account for exams and heavy class assignments – something not all jobs can accommodate.

So, how can DC fix the situation?

First, it needs to look at the application process.

To qualify for Work Study, students must apply to the Financial Aid office and prove they have financial need – before they even submit their resumés.

Those who qualify for OSAP receive quick approval, but domestic students coming from high school and living with their parents face a steeper challenge.

They often must apply for Work Study, get declined around ten days later, appeal, provide additional details about their needs, and then wait with fingers crossed.

The college needs to simplify and streamline this process so more domestic students make it through this first step.

Next, it needs to fund more international positions.

There is a clear need for more I Works positions when on-campus jobs, such as those at FastStart, receive ten times more international student applications than domestic.

Knight-Grofe said her office is proud of their work doubling the roles available to international students. She also said about 30 per cent of the student body at DC comes from abroad.

It only makes sense for the funding and number of roles on campus to be at least proportional.

On-campus employment hasn’t done a great job employing students at the college.

Faculty need support from student employees, and the college needs to begin fixing the situation.

Why shouldn’t DC Works work for everyone at DC?