After a year of virtual learning, Western Washington University is offering new employment opportunities to incoming and returning students, and the hiring processes have already begun.
Western’s Director of University Communications, Paul Cocke, said while it’s too early to tell if employment will be up in the fall, an increase is anticipated based on students’ return to campus.
Cocke said many students who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 will be offered their old positions back.
“Many former student employees will, in fact, be offered their jobs back in recognition of valuable skills and work-related experience they have acquired on the job,” Cocke said. “That said, the responsibilities associated with many positions will have shifted over time and some students will want to change jobs.”
Other on-campus organizations have also recently been hiring, such as Western’s Associated Students, who were hiring for more than 30 positions. While the most recent hiring session ended July 18, there were job offerings such as local music coordinator, public affairs producer and operations coordinator for KUGS-FM.
Western’s Student Employment Center connects students with on-campus jobs, off-campus jobs, non-work study and work-study jobs. Other openings for positions include sports jobs for the athletics department, intramural sports officials and the position of Victor E. Viking, Western’s mascot.
While some jobs were unnecessary due to the pandemic, a few student employees were able to keep their positions and continue working. Sophia Beach, a faculty assistant at Western’s Learning Resource Center, was one of those students.
“I was employed throughout the pandemic,” Beach said. “My superiors provided us with tools to adapt to our new remote work settings, such as tutorials and workshops. For many of us, it was our first time working with Microsoft Teams and Zoom. We were also able to stay connected through weekly meetings.”
Technology became a vital part of the last year as 51% of workplaces went to remote work, according to a Gallup Poll in 2020. Now, due to Washington state’s reopening plan, Washington Ready, announced by Gov. Jay Inslee on May 13, workplaces have more opportunities to see a return to brick and mortar buildings.
Campus jobs such as Aramark positions closed dining halls and markets when COVID-19 turned Western into a mostly online university. Other services like the Western Associated Students Bookstore have recently reopened to in-store shopping following Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
If some students feel worried about finding work-study positions, Beach said to keep applying; she has felt their anxiety about employment.
“I know many freshmen who have been awarded work-study are worried about getting hired on campus,” Beach said. “I had a handful of interviews the week leading up to my first quarter at Western. I was offered nearly every position that I applied for despite having little work experience as a seasonal cashier.”
Michael Burnes, vice president of research and advancement at the National Student Employment Association, said universities switching to online learning during the pandemic affected student employment.
“We know that student positions were affected similarly to the job losses throughout the country,” Burnes said. “Some students were able to continue working remotely, and some institutions continued paying students.”
Burnes said 55% of institutions affiliated with the NSEA in fall 2020 lost 50% or more of all student jobs and 32% of those institutions lost 75% or more of all student positions.
While schools lost jobs over the past year because of closures from COVID-19, Burnes said there is hope that universities this fall will have jobs open for students.
Burnes said the NSEA surveyed member institutions about their fall plans for student employment and 54% of schools that answered the survey plan to reopen all student positions that existed before COVID-19. Another 26% plan to open a majority of those positions, Burnes said.
Justin Troia is a communication studies major and a reporter for The Front. He specializes in on-campus and student news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.