Monday, April 30, 2012
Go west, get a foot in the door, get relevant experience any way possible
Thousands of university and college students are winding down their studies this spring and about to try their luck in a job market that, while improved from recent years, remains a tough nut to crack for the young and inexperienced.
Ideally, within a short time of leaving the classroom, they’ll be working the kind of job that justifies the costs of their tuition and the long hours they’ve put into their school work.
A less inviting prospect is being unemployed or stuck in what Generation X author Douglas Coupland called a “McJob.”
“Ultimately, I’d just like to have a job that I actually like,"says Alyssa Max, a 22-year-old psychology student with the University of Ottawa, who’s completing a bachelor’s degree in psychology. “I know a lot people end up in jobs that they’re not really huge fans of or that don’t really motivate them or that they don’t love.”
Max is hoping to land a job related to her major before returning to school for a master’s degree in a year or two. She says she doesn’t have any solid leads yet.
“I’m hoping to find something at least related to psychology, possibly in the non-profit sector, that will at least allow me to gain some more experience and work with people. But honestly, I’m pretty much open to anything.”
The job market isn’t exactly thriving for young people right now. The unemployment rate for people ages 15 to 24 was at 13.9 per cent in March, almost twice the rate of 7.2 per cent for the general population.
Avery Shenfeld, chief economist with CIBC World Markets, says that despite overall growth in Canada’s job market since the recession ended in 2009, the benefits have not been equally shared by younger members of the labour force.
Still, he adds: “Certainly, relative to those who graduated in 2009, things are not nearly as hopeless.”
Data from Statistics Canada show almost 15 million people ages 25 and older were employed as of March this year, which is about 700,000 more than exactly three years earlier. For for those between 15 and 24, employment numbers were actually down by 60,000 to 2.45 million.
Asked why young people have not shared in the jobs recovery of recent years, Shenfeld says succinctly: “People without much experience tend to be at the back of the line in terms of getting a job.”
Nonetheless, Shenfeld says the picture looks brighter in the months ahead for new grads than it did three years ago. He says with much of the unemployment having been cleared up among older workers, some employers may now be forced to turn to younger applicants when filling positions.
Lara Dodo, Toronto-based regional vice-president with staffing firm Robert Half International, agrees the job market for new grads has improved from recent years but remains quite competitive.
“New grads can expect that employers are looking for someone with a proven track record who can contribute immediately,” she says. “We do understand that there’s a Catch-22 for new graduates; you need experience to get experience.”
Dodo said students should try to attain experience while in school through things such as internships, volunteering and/or summer work.
Some of the in-demand skills for jobs right now include accounting, finance, payroll administration and information-technology specialties, such as network engineering and web development, Dodo says.
Shenfeld says where young people look for work might be even more important than the type of job they seek in terms of increasing the odds of attaining employment.
“One piece of advice, which is a historic one, is, ‘Go west, young man, or woman,’ “ he says, “because that’s where unemployment rates are a lot lower. In Alberta and Saskatchewan, there are a lot of help-wanted signs.”
March data showed an unemployment rate of 5.3 per cent in Alberta and 4.8 per cent in Saskatchewan. That compared to seven per cent in B.C., 7.4 per cent in Ontario and 7.9 per cent in Quebec.
However, picking up one’s life and moving isn’t something that works for everyone, as is the case for graduating psychology student Max.
“I have a partner here [in Ottawa] and I have family here, so for me that’s not really an option,” she says, adding that moving expenses and the choice of schools out West for future study are also impediments to relocating.
posted in: National
Bookmark & share →