Hundreds of rejections a ‘hard reality’ for high school students looking for summer jobs

School is out, summer is here, and that means many London high school students are on the hunt for summer jobs — but turns out, it’s harder than it seems.

Sydney Mastervick graduated from high school this year and had been applying to jobs at Michaels, Indigo, Starbucks and outlets for months. After being shut out, she decided to launch her own tutoring business at the end of April. 

“I definitely applied to at least 50 places but maybe only heard back from three,” said Mastervick, who didn’t get past the interview stage at any of the potentional jobs. 

According to a report by Statistics Canada, the current unemployment rate between ages 15 to 24 is at 12.8 per cent as of April 2024, which is the highest rate since July 2016, excluding pandemic years 2020 and 2021.

A catch-22 situation

The most recent unemployment rate among youth in the London area was 14.3 per cent from a three-month average ending in May 2024, according to a spokesperson from Statistics Canada. At the same time last year, the region’s youth unemployment rate was at 12.8 per cent.

“As to why the unemployment rate has trended up, on a year-over-year basis, the latest release for the month of May indicated that on a year-over-year basis, the unemployment rate in Canada was up across all major demographic groups, with youth aged 15 to 24 recording the largest increases,” said Jasmine Emond, communications and media relations officer at Statistics Canada. 

It’s clear it’s not easy for young people to find jobs and the biggest barrier they face is often their own inexperience, Mastervick said.

Sydney Mastervick graduated from high school this year. She launched her own tutoring business, Reach for the Stars, in April to help students with math and science subjects. (Submitted by Sydney Mastervick)

“Even entry level jobs ask for X number of years of experience,” said Mastervick. “But for high schoolers, that’s not really possible because we are in high school…We don’t really have that much experience on our resumes at that point because we likely haven’t been able to do that much.”

Feeling exhausted with the job hunt, Mastervick eventually decided to start her own tutoring business, Reach for the Stars, where she teaches high school students math and science subjects.

“I love being able to work for myself,” Mastervick said. “It means that I get to be the one in control of when I want to do something and I don’t really have to worry all that much.”

‘It’s a hard reality’

It’s not uncommon for high school students to go through multiple rejections before they land a job, said Tyler Paget, the employment services manager at Youth Opportunities Limited.

“Sometimes, it’s hundreds,” Paget said. “It’s really difficult. It’s a hard reality.”

Man wearing a light sweater.
Tyler Paget, the employment services manager at Youth Opportunities Limited, says young high school students tend to have a harder time finding a job than university students or adults. (Submitted by Tyler Paget)

Employers tend to have more confidence in people enrolled in universities or colleges because it gives them the reliability that a student is able to complete a school year, Paget said.

For a high school student to lessen their chances of rejection, Paget encourages students to network.

“The best way to get around those high rejection numbers, if you can, is doing the networking piece and just trying to meet people and have those conversations,” said Paget.

Job hunting on platforms that cater to high school students such as the Government of Canada’s Youth Canada Summer Jobs database may also help youth land a job faster, Paget said.

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