BC International Students Applaud Change in Allowed Work Hours – Smithers Interior News


When Rahul Joshi was a student in the culinary management program at Selkirk College’s Tenth Street campus, he lived with seven other students in a two-bedroom apartment in Nelson.

Joshi was an international student from India, like all of his roommates. For the duration of their studies in 2018-2019, they lived in these overcrowded conditions because otherwise they would not be able to afford accommodation.

“We shared the same kitchen, we share the same bathroom,” Joshi explains. “It was not a very good experience. No personal space, nothing.

Joshi graduated from the program in 2019 and has since worked as a chef at Finley’s Bar and Grill in Nelson.

Until this month, the federal government only allowed international students to work 20 hours a week while studying, leaving many without enough money to pay even the most basic expenses.

But this rule has just changed. The federal government has decided that international students will now be allowed to work full-time from 15 November. The policy change, however, is temporary and only lasts until the end of 2023.

Until this change, many students ended up with a penny, asking their parents for money at home or working under the table.

“It was a big deal for us,” says Harman Deep Singh, currently a culinary student in India who also works part-time at Finley’s. “It is very difficult for us to make sure that all our finances are covered. It is a very big step which will help us in our studies.

Chef Rahul Joshi (left) and Harman Deep Singh (right) with their employer Tanya Finley of Finley’s Bar and Grill. Singh is a student in Selkirk College’s culinary management program and Rahul is a 2019 graduate. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

The Culinary Management program is for students from other countries who already have a culinary or hospitality degree in their home country.

Joshi and Singh say many international students in the program have earned overtime (over the 20-hour limit) working under the table, receiving cash payment, often at a lower wage rate.

“It’s a tough position to be in,” says Joshi, “because when they take money from under the table, it’s a threat to them if they get caught. They will be deported to (their country of origin).

When the change takes effect on November 15, this problem should disappear since students will be able to work 40 hours.

Asked about the possibility of working and going to school full time, Singh and Joshi reply that it is possible, but that some students’ grades suffer.

“They don’t have time for their personal life,” says Joshi. “All they do is work and study. That’s it.”

Singh says it depends on each student’s situation. This school term, he can work a lot of hours, he says, because his schooling consists mainly of an internship in the kitchen at Selkirk College with occasional quizzes.

He says the new rule will give students more flexibility.

Tanya Finley, Singh and Joshi’s employer, supports the change, adding that her main concern is fairness for students.

“In this industry, we see a lot of international students (who) have to work under unfair conditions,” she said. “I am extremely proud of the international students who work for us. They are what I consider to be genuine, hard-working Canadians.

The Nelson & District Chamber of Commerce appreciates this decision as it will help mitigate the shortage of workers in Nelson, particularly in food and beverage workplaces.

Executive director Tom Thomson said the chamber pushed for the change.

“We are definitely in favor of the move,” he said. “It will be great for students and will also help with the labor shortage in Nelson.”

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