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GNWT summer student hires slashed amid pandemic

The number of students hired for GNWT summer job roles has declined by almost three-quarters.

A total of 98 have been hired so far for this summer while 351 were hired for the summer of 2019, said Todd Sasaki, spokesperson for the Department of Finance.

The reduction is partly attributable to the GNWT's decision to suspend the Summer Student Employment Program. Students were notified March 24.

Cassandra Robillard, left, Rene Belland, Marion Barbe, ENR summer student Johanna Stewart and Jennifer Doubt pose while collecting moss  in July 2018. Programs like theirs will be curtailed this year as the number of GNWT summer student jobs has been reduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic . photos courtesy of Jennifer Doubt

"The GNWT made this decision in response to Covid-19 and ensuring the safety of employees and residents of the NWT," said Sasaki.

Before March 24 the government had already made 78 written and verbal job offers and after that date hired an additional 20 summer students, 18 of whom are due to work in the health care sector.

More students could be hired to staff areas of need on a case-by-case basis, Sasaki added.

The jobs will be in administrative work, data entry, communications, policy research and other tasks that can be done remotely.

"Hiring for on-site tasks (field technicians, labourers, etc.) has naturally decreased in response to Covid-19," Sasaki said.

The performance of those remote jobs was possible even before the GNWT announced that phase one of its Emerging Wisely recovery plan could begin last Friday.

RELATED REPORTING: NWT moves into first phase of relaxing Covid-19 restrictions

Roles involving outdoor work could theoretically still be done, according to the phase one rules that state that outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people are permitted as long as physical distancing protocols are observed.

Some office jobs would also possible in the first phase if fewer than 10 people are present on the same floor and if there are physical barriers in place. Members of the public in the office must also wear non-medical masks and staff must wear personal protective equipment.

Office environments where up to 25 people are present on the same floor will be permitted to open in mid to late June, in phase two.

The summer employment program normally runs from April 15 until Aug. 30 and opportunities take place throughout the territory and across the government's 11 departments and 13 agencies.