Anticipating a poor summer job market for students, the province yesterday announced it will boost its youth employment funding to $90 million by offering more government jobs and wage subsidies to employers hiring young people.

The new investment, representing a 57 per cent jump or $32 million over last year, comes as statistics show Canada’s youth unemployment rate at 14.8 per cent, its highest in 11 years.

“In challenging economic times, Ontario is helping more students find the jobs they need to fund their education and develop important workplace skills,” John Milloy, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, told a news conference yesterday at Ontario Place, which hires 500 young workers each summer.

The additional funding will allow 27,000 more students to participate in the Ontario Summer Jobs program, bringing an estimated total to 100,000 students aged 15 to 30 years.

Shreya Patel, who just finished her first-year courses in retail management at Ryerson University, has already submitted 10 job applications.

“I have a part-time (retail) job now, but half of the people have had their hours cut. It is really competitive out there. I would be in big trouble if I can’t find a full-time job this summer to pay for my tuition and books. It is so expensive to live in the city,” said the Sarnia native, who is spending her summer in Toronto. “We all are looking for jobs and struggling.”

Cheri DiNovo, MPP for Parkdale-High Park and NDP employment standards critic, called the announcement a “sweetener that goes with some nasty medicines,” given the province’s recent cutbacks on grants and textbook allowance.

While the investment is good news for many post secondary students, Shelley Melanson, chair of the 300,000-member Canadian Federation of Students Ontario, said the government must also freeze escalating post-secondary tuition fees to make higher education accessible and affordable.

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