Case Study: Employment Programs as Cultural Policy

The Canadian and provincial/territorial governments have employment programs. These programs provide funding to hire someone to work on a project or fill a need for a short amount of time, targeting youth, students, and/or regions with high unemployment.

Federal examples include Canada Summer Jobs and Young Canada Works. I provide a larger list of employment programs that the Dawson City Museum has accessed here.

These employment programs are one of the most significant forms of support that community museums receive from the federal and, sometimes, provincial governments. They subsidize the labor museums desperately need.

As such, this post argues these employment programs are implicit cultural policies.

The first section contains YouTube videos from Employment and Social Development Canada that demonstrate the argument. The second section summarizes my findings about the provincial employment program and community museums in New Brunswick (Nelson 2015). The third section asks questions because I would love to hear what you think.

Canada Summer Jobs Advertisements

Employment and Social Development Canada created videos that demonstrate the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program has an influence on cultural organizations.

Here is a video that describes the importance of CSJ from both the youth and museum perspective:

Title: Wonder what it’s like to work in a museum? | Canada Summer Jobs 2020; Length: 1:29; Link

Here is another video that describes a link to theatre, showing the program has significance to different cultural subsectors:

Title: Be part of the theatre while helping a non-profit organization; Length: 1:30; Link

New Brunswick Employment Programs and Community Museums


In New Brunswick, the government began providing funding for student employment in community museums in 1971. As I wrote in my thesis:

By the summer of 1979, the HRA [Historical Resource Administration] facilitated fifty student positions, increasing provincially financed student employment in museums and historical societies by thirty-two positions over eight years. In 2014, SEED funded a total of 102 student employees or 947 weeks in New Brunswick community museums and historical societies.

Nelson 2015, 57

Importantly, many of these museums had one or no paid staff year round. As such, one or two student employees represented a significant increase to museums’ human resources.

The Effects on Community Museums

Here are some of my key findings about this provincial program and its effect on community museums:

  • Student employees enabled museums to open.

Some museum volunteers in New Brunswick believed they would be unable to open their museum without student employees. Supporting this assertion, when museums opened for the summer or extended their hours often reflected the number of weeks provided through student employment.

  • Student employees enabled museums to offer programming.

Tours were (are?) a major form of programming in NB and student employees provided these tours. More interestingly, exhibitions in historic houses have developed with the assumption that students will be present to supervise visitors, meaning barriers between visitors and objects were not necessary.

  • Rural community museums struggled to fill the positions, which placed additional time / human resource burdens on the volunteers (or the one employee) attempting to find eligible people.

There are simply fewer students available in rural settings than in cities, making positions more difficult to fill at rural museums.

  • Museums did not know whether they would have employees or how many until the season was about to start, which made long-term planning, advertising for public programming, and hiring more difficult.

In other words, how the employment program was administered effected how the museums could plan and develop. Rural museums, in particular, found the late notification exacerbated their struggles to find local students.

  • The employed students often changed every year, leading to inconsistencies and lowering the quality of museum work.

For example, one interview participant described inconsistencies in their collections management because when the student engaged in this work changed, differences were introduced.

  • The provincial contracts were 8-10 weeks, which is the length of the summer season. As such, there was little time for training.

The lack of time for training changed what the museums could accomplish because it takes time to learn about a regions’ history and heritage.


Have you ever accessed a student employment program as either a student or employer? What do you think?

Do you agree that these programs are one of the most significant form of implicit cultural policy within what is now known as Canada? Why or why not?

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