April 24, 2024

According to college students, accommodating school and work is becoming increasingly complex with strict schedules and demanding employers.

A recent survey conducted by ADP Canada, a consulting firm, found that 34 per cent of respondents felt they could not set boundaries at work to ensure they had time for themselves. Finding a way to balance work, life, and education feels impossible to many students, and if they aren’t facing difficulties, they have friends who are.

Harbinder Singh, an advanced innovation and design student at Conestoga, was happy with his summer job in India with Mitsubishi.  After coming to Canada, he has struggled to find a job to cover his expenses and allow enough time for his education. Looking to his friends offers little hope. “They work six days, then overtime with no personal space from their job,” he says, and Singh feels that schedule would be impossible to balance with school. With piling bills, he’s scrambling to find work willing to accommodate his busy schedule.

Anthony Bates, a previous photography student at Mohawk College, said he had both his time and skills exploited by an employer. While working full-time to support his education, Bates struggled to balance his schooling and work due to his managers not accommodating his need for time to work on assignments. As a photographer, he said he was expected to run the store’s social media and take all promotional photos while still being paid minimum wage with no extra compensation outside of work hours.

“My managers told me that I was being disrespectful to them for refusing to do work for them outside of my hours for free,” Bates said regarding being taken advantage of in his place of work. Because of the lack of accommodating schedules to fit his school, his grades in the classes that required Bates to do on-location shoots suffered greatly.

Rachael, an occupational health, safety, and wellness student at Conestoga, is now desperate to find a way to change her school schedule as her place of employment refuses to accommodate her education. She has to work a full-time job to support herself, but because of one late class, she misses out on an eight-hour shift every week, with her manager unable to make an exception for her to start later. “I can’t make my tuition payments even with 40 hours; there’s no way I can pay with only 20,” Rachael sent a plea to Conestoga College to find a way to finish classes earlier to allow her to return to full-time work.

A recent study from the University of Western Ontario found that over 70 per cent of workers in Canada face harassment and violence. Still, with limited ability to quit and find better employment, many students say they will be forced to deal with the conditions or risk losing their income altogether. While living paycheck to paycheck, without change, most students say they will have to handle demanding environments on top of their work-heavy education.

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