Beating the student summer job blues

What it takes for high school students to find work in a competitive job market

The summer job season is fast approaching, and teens everywhere are updating their resumés, preparing for employment fairs and responding to want ads.

But while many employers hire extra staff for the season, the search is often frustrating and fruitless for high school students.

The summer unemployment rate for students is high—Statistics Canada reports that last year, it was 17.2 per cent. As well, high schoolers have a tougher time finding work than college and university students: according to Statistics Canada, last summer, those age 15 to 16 experienced 30.7 per cent unemployment, and for those age 17 to 19, it was 16.4 per cent, while for those age 20 to 24, the rate was a much lower 10.3 per cent.

Summer employment edge

Getting ahead in the competitive summer job market ultimately means being well prepared. School- and career-planning service has a new feature called Experiences and Resumé Builder that makes it easy to document accomplishments and prepare resumés.

Available for free to students at public and Catholic schools wherever is offered—the service is subscribed to by 1,500 middle and high schools within 40 school boards across the country—the tool lets users record experiences, achievements and skills that may one day help them find work, such as class projects, school clubs, hobbies, volunteer gigs and part-time or casual jobs.

“There’s no need to try to figure it all out at the last minute—that’s when things get missed,” says Gil Silberstein, president of “With this tool, you can record every skill-developing experience or responsibility you have as you progress through middle and high school, and when you’re ready to look for work, you can just click a button to generate a resumé.”

The user-friendly software lets students organize experiences into different categories to create an effective and professional-looking resumé. Students applying for different types of jobs can create multiple customized resumés that include the most relevant experiences. At each step, tips are offered on how to optimize different sections of a resumé. Users can also get help with creating a functional cover letter.

When completed, students can e-mail their resumé to potential employers directly from the site, or download and save it as a PDF or Microsoft Word document to use later.

“This is a very useful tool for students—they just need to collect the required information for the various fields,” Dubeau says. “This is especially helpful for students who have never created a resumé before. It helps them to prepare professional documents.”

Maximize your

summer job search

Kathy Dubeau, a guidance and co-operative education teacher at Stephen Lewis Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont., offers the following tips to high school students trying to find summer work:

1. Have a current resumé ready at all times—make it well organized and professional looking with (available at subscribing schools).

2. Know how to write an effective cover letter.

3. Use the “hidden job market”—personal networks and contacts—as many jobs aren’t publicly advertised.

4. Brush up on potential interview questions.

5. Have a suitable and well-fitting outfit ready for interviews.

6. Become familiar with job search websites, including for the Federal Student Work Experience Program ( and Ontario Summer Jobs (