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Breaking:: Overwhelmed Store Manager in N.S. Flooded with Desperate International Students Seeking Employment


A store manager in Sydney, NS, says large numbers of international students from Cape Breton University (CBU) are inundating her with resumes and harrowing stories about their desperate searches for housing and employment.

Tasha Myers, who runs the Hallmark card store in the Mayflower Mall near the university, says it’s hard having to tell students every day that there are no open positions.

Myers and franchise owner Liam Vance say the CBU and its overseas agents need to do a better job of giving students realistic expectations for housing and work.

“A student came to me yesterday and told me that her recruiter just lied to her that the opportunities are crazy and the housing is the best and there are so many jobs and then she came here and it was the complete opposite.” Myers said.

Myers said she gets up to a dozen resumes a day when time is tight and up to 20 or more on a busier day and has been that way since she opened the shop a year ago.

He keeps a stack of resumes behind the counter and regularly has to dispose of them when the stack grows too large.

Invaded by resumes

“We let them drop off their resumes and they pile up to the point where we can’t even keep them in a drawer anymore,” Myers said.

“Only in the last few days we have at least, I don’t know, 60.”

The worst part is students breaking down and telling Myers their problems, he said.

“Every day we have people who come in angry, sad and depressed,” Myers said.

“Tears run down their eyes when you tell them no and it takes a lot out of you as a human being. It really does.

“It’s disturbing to see how things are going. It’s disturbing to see how many people are struggling, how many people come from another country with nothing and not even a job.”

Vance owns other Hallmark franchises in addition to the one in Sydney and said his stores in Truro, Halifax and St John, NB, don’t have the same problem.

Hallmark franchisee Liam Vance says Cape Breton University needs to do better, but ultimately the federal government needs to take action to help international students. (Submitted by Liam Vance)

He said that CBU has obviously struggled with its rapidly increasing student population and should do better.

But he also said that the federal government has to step in to help students.

“Ultimately, it all comes down to government action, because they’re the ones that let them into the country,” Vance said.

Victor Tomiczek, CBU’s international recruiting director, said the first page of the acceptance letter tells students that jobs and housing are scarce and they should start looking for them before they leave home.

He also said that recruiters are being asked to convey the same message in person to prospective students abroad.

Large international student population

“We have a zero tolerance policy for any partner who ignores this training or this ethical behavior and there is no second chance if someone is caught acting badly on behalf of the CBU,” Tomiczek said.

Last year CBU had more than 7,000 students and about 70 percent were international. The university had 3,300 students in 2018.

Tomiczek said recruiters are paid on commission, which is similar for all universities and colleges looking for students abroad.

CBU staff even traveled to India this summer to train recruiters and ensure they adhere to ethical standards.

A red brick sign reads Cape Breton University in front of a red brick building.
CBU international recruitment director Victor Tomiczek says the university aims to “stabilize” enrollment at 7,000 by 2027, with no more than 60 percent international students. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

“While we cannot guarantee or have eyes and ears in every office in the world where we operate, we do everything possible to ensure that anyone who works with CBU remains ethical and honest when representing our university,” he said.

With classes starting this week, Tomiczek declined to say what the estimated enrollment is, saying that number will be finalized by mid-October.

However, he said, the university’s goal is to “stabilize” enrollment at 7,000 students, of whom no more than 60 percent are international students, by 2027.

The federal government says it is reviewing the international student program across the country and looking for ways to reduce fraud and what it calls “perverse incentives” in the system.

‘Threats to system integrity’

Aissa Diop, spokeswoman for the federal minister for immigration, refugees and citizenship, said international students are important to communities and the economy, but there are abuses in the system.

Canada currently has about 800,000 international students and that has created a system worth more than $20 billion and many “lucrative financial opportunities,” he said.

The department isn’t targeting anyone specifically, but it is working with provinces and post-secondary institutions to find ways to reward those who do good work and hold others accountable for better student outcomes, Diop said.

The review will include “difficult conversations with the provinces about threats to the integrity of the system,” he said.

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