Dateline Cowichan: Student jobs hard to come by in recession

Station Street in Duncan, circa 1930. Visible are the Vidal Block Building, Canadian Bank of Commerce, Cowichan Merchants building and the Cenotaph at the end of the street - courtesy Cowichan Valley Museum and Archive
Station Street in Duncan, circa 1930. Visible are the Vidal Block Building, Canadian Bank of Commerce, Cowichan Merchants building and the Cenotaph at the end of the street
— image credit: courtesy Cowichan Valley Museum and Archive

The early 1980s inflation recession seesaw was horrible: its effect was profound as forest industry workers worried about their jobs as the first mills closed.

Lay-offs eventually led to massive unemployment; and owners of retail businesses, like grocery stores, bakeries and clothing stores tightened their belts for the expected slowdown.

In June 1981, the consequences were disheartening for students searching for summer jobs. Positions are going begging in Cowichan, but students won’t touch them, wrote the Leader. Inflation had hit students as hard as it had other sectors of society, and the offered jobs simply didn’t pay enough.

“(It’s) impossible for education-oriented youth to continue university and college studies with money earned from minimum wage jobs,” said Irene Champagne, student placement officer at the Duncan Canada Employment Centre. Most students who did cwere going into debt – and they were doing that only if they qualified for student loans, she explained.

She cited other contributing factors: labour unrest, cutbacks on provincial student funding, course cuts at colleges, individual student attitudes and reluctance by employers to increase wages for older, work-experienced students.

1981: scholars

Cowichan Secondary students Robert Gardner, Peggy Wright and Michael Shelbourn were among 115 students selected from 271 applicants across B.C. to participate in the 15th annual Humanities and Science Symposium at UVic.

1981: winners

Among the winners in the Shawnigan Karnival were Connel and Dean Witzaney for best-looking soap box; Camilla Towner and Elisa Hill in the decorated buggies and wagons category; and Jennifer Hill who won the story book and nursery rhyme class.

1981: rejuvenation

With an 85 per cent resident vote in favour, Duncan became the first city in the province to take advantage of provincial low cost loans for rejuvenation. Core merchants would receive $400,000 for downtown improvements.

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