What’s it like to be a new college grad in Hamilton during the coronavirus pandemic?

News May 13, 2020 by Mike Pearson Hamilton Mountain News

In his early 20s, Greg McNeish meandered through a few college programs. But the Hamilton Mountain resident struggled to find his true calling.

In his early 30s, while working at a local Tim Hortons, McNeish became the elder statesman among his co-workers, many of whom were high schoolers working their first jobs.

Using his knack for problem solving, McNeish became a shift supervisor and mentor to the younger employees.

“In that, I discovered just how rewarding it was to be in a position where I could invest in people,” said McNeish, now 37. “I got to be someone’s very first boss, which is a cool responsibility. I got to set the tone for how they were going to look at work for the rest of their lives.”

Three years ago, after saving some money and digging himself out of a hole of debt, McNeish enrolled in the business administration program at Mohawk College. He was the oldest student in the class. Putting his leadership skills to good use, he served as the vice-president of finance for the Mohawk Student Association.

Early this year, things were looking up. McNeish was set to graduate and enter a promising job market.

But then in March, the coronavirus pandemic threw a big monkey wrench into those plans.

McNeish and his classmates had three or four weeks of classes that had to be delivered online, prior to exams.

“I had been a pretty good student up to that point,” he recalled. “It was a pretty massive change and big challenges.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming fall term, Mohawk has announced that more than 70 per cent of its courses will be delivered remotely starting in September.

Courses which require face-to-face learning, such as in-person labs, simulations and assessments, are expected to continue, subject to public health guidelines.

Mohawk president Ron McKerlie said the remote learning plan is tentative and subject to change depending on public health’s changes to COVID-19 restrictions.

“This gives us versatility, and the good thing is we have some history and experience in delivering courses remotely and virtually,” McKerlie said. Still, the plan is an adjustment that thrusts the school into uncharted territory, he added.

Back in March, during the transition to online learning using Zoom, McNeish was impressed by the level of communication from his Mohawk professors.

“They did a wonderful job of not only being available, but keeping us updated on changes to the course, what times they would be available setting things up, and just keeping the communication open, as everyone was reacting to things coming out every single day.”

Learning to cope

While professors did all they could to help, McNeish’s mental health and his grades took a hit.

“I found it really difficult to be able to emotionally invest in my education,” he said.

Nonetheless, McNeish overcame depression and isolation to earn his diploma.

“I do lots of phone calls with family members,” he said. “I was able to get together through Facebook and on Zoom, for online game nights and things like that.”

While he feels better equipped for today’s job market, McNeish knows he faces an uphill battle.

“There are some places hiring, but a lot of people are out of work. A lot of people have suddenly hit the job market that have a lot more experience than I do,” said McNeish. “Those are the sorts of challenges for any graduate in today’s time. But it’s probably a little heightened right now.”

Federal government announces help for students

On May 13, the federal government announced students and recent graduates can apply for financial relief starting May 15.

The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) will give students $1,250 per month for up to four months, with an extra $750 for students with disabilities or dependents.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau advised students to pre-emptively create an account with the Canada Revenue Agency to access the benefit.

“If you haven’t already signed up for the ‘My Account’ on the CRA website, it’s worth doing this now to make the next steps go even quicker," Trudeau said during a press briefing on May 13.

Applicants who are able to work must be actively looking for a job to qualify for the CESB. Canadians cannot apply for the CESB if they have already applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or Employment Insurance.

Before the pandemic, McNeish had some interviews lined up with companies that have since put hiring activities on hold.

Looking back at the death toll and upheaval of the Spanish flu 100 years ago, McNeish predicts the world economy will need significant time to recover from the COVID-19 fallout.

“I’m prepared for this to be a multi-year disruption before we get back to anything that resembles normal,” he said.

Graduation ceremonies on hold

One thing McNeish isn’t too worried about is missing out on his in-person graduation ceremony.

“We are assured that eventually we will get a ceremony,” said McNeish. “I’ll get my chance to walk across the stage at some point. And maybe it’ll even be more of a cathartic experience because I’ll be able to see my classmates for the first time since March.”

— With files from The Hamilton Spectator


STORY BEHIND THE STORY: We wanted to learn more about the challenges college students are facing now and in the future, managing remote learning and a difficult job market.

What’s it like to be a new college grad in Hamilton during the coronavirus pandemic?

Greg McNeish remains hopeful #learnfromhome

News May 13, 2020 by Mike Pearson Hamilton Mountain News

In his early 20s, Greg McNeish meandered through a few college programs. But the Hamilton Mountain resident struggled to find his true calling.

In his early 30s, while working at a local Tim Hortons, McNeish became the elder statesman among his co-workers, many of whom were high schoolers working their first jobs.

Using his knack for problem solving, McNeish became a shift supervisor and mentor to the younger employees.

“In that, I discovered just how rewarding it was to be in a position where I could invest in people,” said McNeish, now 37. “I got to be someone’s very first boss, which is a cool responsibility. I got to set the tone for how they were going to look at work for the rest of their lives.”

Related Content

Three years ago, after saving some money and digging himself out of a hole of debt, McNeish enrolled in the business administration program at Mohawk College. He was the oldest student in the class. Putting his leadership skills to good use, he served as the vice-president of finance for the Mohawk Student Association.

Early this year, things were looking up. McNeish was set to graduate and enter a promising job market.

But then in March, the coronavirus pandemic threw a big monkey wrench into those plans.

McNeish and his classmates had three or four weeks of classes that had to be delivered online, prior to exams.

“I had been a pretty good student up to that point,” he recalled. “It was a pretty massive change and big challenges.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming fall term, Mohawk has announced that more than 70 per cent of its courses will be delivered remotely starting in September.

Courses which require face-to-face learning, such as in-person labs, simulations and assessments, are expected to continue, subject to public health guidelines.

Mohawk president Ron McKerlie said the remote learning plan is tentative and subject to change depending on public health’s changes to COVID-19 restrictions.

“This gives us versatility, and the good thing is we have some history and experience in delivering courses remotely and virtually,” McKerlie said. Still, the plan is an adjustment that thrusts the school into uncharted territory, he added.

Back in March, during the transition to online learning using Zoom, McNeish was impressed by the level of communication from his Mohawk professors.

“They did a wonderful job of not only being available, but keeping us updated on changes to the course, what times they would be available setting things up, and just keeping the communication open, as everyone was reacting to things coming out every single day.”

Learning to cope

While professors did all they could to help, McNeish’s mental health and his grades took a hit.

“I found it really difficult to be able to emotionally invest in my education,” he said.

Nonetheless, McNeish overcame depression and isolation to earn his diploma.

“I do lots of phone calls with family members,” he said. “I was able to get together through Facebook and on Zoom, for online game nights and things like that.”

While he feels better equipped for today’s job market, McNeish knows he faces an uphill battle.

“There are some places hiring, but a lot of people are out of work. A lot of people have suddenly hit the job market that have a lot more experience than I do,” said McNeish. “Those are the sorts of challenges for any graduate in today’s time. But it’s probably a little heightened right now.”

Federal government announces help for students

On May 13, the federal government announced students and recent graduates can apply for financial relief starting May 15.

The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) will give students $1,250 per month for up to four months, with an extra $750 for students with disabilities or dependents.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau advised students to pre-emptively create an account with the Canada Revenue Agency to access the benefit.

“If you haven’t already signed up for the ‘My Account’ on the CRA website, it’s worth doing this now to make the next steps go even quicker," Trudeau said during a press briefing on May 13.

Applicants who are able to work must be actively looking for a job to qualify for the CESB. Canadians cannot apply for the CESB if they have already applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or Employment Insurance.

Before the pandemic, McNeish had some interviews lined up with companies that have since put hiring activities on hold.

Looking back at the death toll and upheaval of the Spanish flu 100 years ago, McNeish predicts the world economy will need significant time to recover from the COVID-19 fallout.

“I’m prepared for this to be a multi-year disruption before we get back to anything that resembles normal,” he said.

Graduation ceremonies on hold

One thing McNeish isn’t too worried about is missing out on his in-person graduation ceremony.

“We are assured that eventually we will get a ceremony,” said McNeish. “I’ll get my chance to walk across the stage at some point. And maybe it’ll even be more of a cathartic experience because I’ll be able to see my classmates for the first time since March.”

— With files from The Hamilton Spectator


STORY BEHIND THE STORY: We wanted to learn more about the challenges college students are facing now and in the future, managing remote learning and a difficult job market.

What’s it like to be a new college grad in Hamilton during the coronavirus pandemic?

Greg McNeish remains hopeful #learnfromhome

News May 13, 2020 by Mike Pearson Hamilton Mountain News

In his early 20s, Greg McNeish meandered through a few college programs. But the Hamilton Mountain resident struggled to find his true calling.

In his early 30s, while working at a local Tim Hortons, McNeish became the elder statesman among his co-workers, many of whom were high schoolers working their first jobs.

Using his knack for problem solving, McNeish became a shift supervisor and mentor to the younger employees.

“In that, I discovered just how rewarding it was to be in a position where I could invest in people,” said McNeish, now 37. “I got to be someone’s very first boss, which is a cool responsibility. I got to set the tone for how they were going to look at work for the rest of their lives.”

Related Content

Three years ago, after saving some money and digging himself out of a hole of debt, McNeish enrolled in the business administration program at Mohawk College. He was the oldest student in the class. Putting his leadership skills to good use, he served as the vice-president of finance for the Mohawk Student Association.

Early this year, things were looking up. McNeish was set to graduate and enter a promising job market.

But then in March, the coronavirus pandemic threw a big monkey wrench into those plans.

McNeish and his classmates had three or four weeks of classes that had to be delivered online, prior to exams.

“I had been a pretty good student up to that point,” he recalled. “It was a pretty massive change and big challenges.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming fall term, Mohawk has announced that more than 70 per cent of its courses will be delivered remotely starting in September.

Courses which require face-to-face learning, such as in-person labs, simulations and assessments, are expected to continue, subject to public health guidelines.

Mohawk president Ron McKerlie said the remote learning plan is tentative and subject to change depending on public health’s changes to COVID-19 restrictions.

“This gives us versatility, and the good thing is we have some history and experience in delivering courses remotely and virtually,” McKerlie said. Still, the plan is an adjustment that thrusts the school into uncharted territory, he added.

Back in March, during the transition to online learning using Zoom, McNeish was impressed by the level of communication from his Mohawk professors.

“They did a wonderful job of not only being available, but keeping us updated on changes to the course, what times they would be available setting things up, and just keeping the communication open, as everyone was reacting to things coming out every single day.”

Learning to cope

While professors did all they could to help, McNeish’s mental health and his grades took a hit.

“I found it really difficult to be able to emotionally invest in my education,” he said.

Nonetheless, McNeish overcame depression and isolation to earn his diploma.

“I do lots of phone calls with family members,” he said. “I was able to get together through Facebook and on Zoom, for online game nights and things like that.”

While he feels better equipped for today’s job market, McNeish knows he faces an uphill battle.

“There are some places hiring, but a lot of people are out of work. A lot of people have suddenly hit the job market that have a lot more experience than I do,” said McNeish. “Those are the sorts of challenges for any graduate in today’s time. But it’s probably a little heightened right now.”

Federal government announces help for students

On May 13, the federal government announced students and recent graduates can apply for financial relief starting May 15.

The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) will give students $1,250 per month for up to four months, with an extra $750 for students with disabilities or dependents.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau advised students to pre-emptively create an account with the Canada Revenue Agency to access the benefit.

“If you haven’t already signed up for the ‘My Account’ on the CRA website, it’s worth doing this now to make the next steps go even quicker," Trudeau said during a press briefing on May 13.

Applicants who are able to work must be actively looking for a job to qualify for the CESB. Canadians cannot apply for the CESB if they have already applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or Employment Insurance.

Before the pandemic, McNeish had some interviews lined up with companies that have since put hiring activities on hold.

Looking back at the death toll and upheaval of the Spanish flu 100 years ago, McNeish predicts the world economy will need significant time to recover from the COVID-19 fallout.

“I’m prepared for this to be a multi-year disruption before we get back to anything that resembles normal,” he said.

Graduation ceremonies on hold

One thing McNeish isn’t too worried about is missing out on his in-person graduation ceremony.

“We are assured that eventually we will get a ceremony,” said McNeish. “I’ll get my chance to walk across the stage at some point. And maybe it’ll even be more of a cathartic experience because I’ll be able to see my classmates for the first time since March.”

— With files from The Hamilton Spectator


STORY BEHIND THE STORY: We wanted to learn more about the challenges college students are facing now and in the future, managing remote learning and a difficult job market.