Putting students to work

Close to 500 students get summer jobs at UBC through Work Study and Work Learn Programs

Last year UBC student Alexis Kho spent her summer working at a Dairy Queen and Orange Julius shop in Vancouver. Although she learned a lot from her customer service role, the work wasn’t all that related to her degree or future career plans.

Kho, a student in the Natural Resources Conservation program in the Faculty of Forestry, hopes to help plan environmental reclamation projects when she graduates.

“Finding work relevant to what you’re studying is hard without experience or personal connections,” says Kho.

This summer Kho is the Online Education Assistant at UBC’s Botanical Garden, a job she landed through the Work Study program offered by UBC’s Career Services. In this role Kho will use her background in biology and ecology and will learn how to explain complex information about plants and gardening to the public.

“This job will give me some experience that I think will really help later on,” she says.

Kho is one of about 500 students at UBC who will spend their summer working at the university through the Work Study and Work Learn programs. The programs create jobs on campus by subsidizing the wages of students. Departments or professors hiring students receive $9 an hour to put towards the student’s salary.

“The programs were developed to provide students with some much needed income while they are in school but it also means students are getting involved and contributing to the university’s programs and research,” says Tahirih Walsh, coordinator for the Work Learn program at UBC Career Services.

Work Study and Work Learn are among the largest wage subsidy programs for students in Canada.

“By giving students the option of working at the university, we’re ensuring that their jobs are contributing to their learning experience at UBC,” says Walsh.

Between the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses, more than 3,000 students participate in UBC’s Work Study and Work Learn programs during the summer and school year. Work Study was developed in the 1990s for Canadian or permanent resident students and Work Learn was launched in 2006 to provide additional employment opportunities for international undergraduate students – without the extra hassel of applying for an off-campus work permit.

“Work Study students have to be taking classes to take part in the program but there is a cap on the number of hours students can work each week and many jobs offer flexible work schedules,” says Walsh. “We want students to have a positive experience and we don’t want them sacrificing school for work.”

Kho had hoped to find a co-op position this summer but unfortunately had no luck. She enrolled in two elective classes and looked for other job opportunities.

“I really wanted to spend this summer doing something relevant to what I’m studying,” says Kho, who was impressed by the broad range of positions available through Work Study.

“The programs are a real win-win for the Botanical Garden,” says Daniel Mosquin, research manager at UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research and Kho’s supervisor. “We get to employ enthusiastic students who bring energy, skills and fresh perspectives to the Garden and they get an opportunity to work toward their goals and learn from the experience and knowledge of our staff.”

One of Kho’s favourite tasks at the Botanical Gardens is to select a plant to highlight for the Botany Photo of the Day blog. She takes or finds a photo of an interesting plant, researches it and then blogs about it. Kho also manages an online forum where she answers questions from the public about plants and gardening.

“I have to respond right away but I also have to make things simple,” says Kho. “I’ve never been in this type of position and I’m learning new skills and working in a new environment. Without this opportunity I would feel pretty lost.”

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UBC Reports | Vol. 57 | No. 7 | Jul. 7, 2011

Alexis Kho is one of 500 students employed through Work Study and Work Learn Programs. Martin Dee Photograph

Alexis Kho is one of 500 students employed through Work Study and Work Learn Programs. Martin Dee Photograph

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