New statistics counter the popular narrative
Since the recession, so the story goes, almost all 27-year-old university graduates are sitting in mom’s or dad’s basement playing Guitar Hero, firing off job applications and ranting on Facebook about how they’d be better off as plumbers.
This has become such accepted wisdom that when Allan Rock, president of the University of Ottawa, argued in a speech last week that it is, in fact, a myth, the Ottawa Citizen saw it as news.
Newly-released Statistics Canada charts of unemployment rates by education among 25 to 29-year-olds back up Rock’s point. Last year, university graduates were more likely than anyone else in that age group to be employed and just as likely to be working as the same age group was back in 2005 when no one fretted about jobs.
How to make the most out of internships and placements
I worked at least a dozen summer jobs and internships before landing a full-time job, so suffice it to say I’ve learned a few things about squeezing the most out of these fleeting experiences. I’ve also seen a whir of students come and go and noticed too many unwittingly break the unwritten office rules. Since these jobs are crucial for launching careers, I thought I’d share what I learned. Follow these seven rules to make the most out of your summer placement.
7. Cover up
Few bosses would point out inappropriate clothing, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t making mental notes about your choices. Men shouldn’t wear jeans or shorts on any day except casual Friday. For women, things are tougher, but the most common mistake is showing too much skin: open-toed shoes are out, mini-dresses are not approved and low-cut tops are frowned upon.
6. Don’t be late—ever
Sometimes traffic is bad, sometimes Starbucks has a long line and some days the boss herself saunters in at 9:45. It doesn’t matter; you need to be there at 9 a.m. sharp. Even after a true emergency (let’s say your apartment floods—this happened to a colleague) don’t just show up with soggy pants at 10:30. Call your boss so she can re-assign your work and not worry for your safety.
5. Keep that smart-phone hidden
Work time belongs to work, even if you’re an unpaid intern (I know right?). That means you shouldn’t be caught updating your status, Tweeting or having long text message conversations.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Bosses may assume you know how to do something unless you tell them otherwise. Although you should try to be resourceful and figure things out on your own, sometimes you just need to ask. It’s better to look dumb in front of your boss than to make her look dumb in front of clients.
3. Be sure to find a mentor
You may be passed around from project to project and boss to boss. While it’s great to meet plenty of new people, make sure at least one person gets to know you well. You will need that person to vouch for you when you’re asked for a reference. You also want them to think of you when a position opens up. I got my job because an editor with whom I worked closely recommended me.
2. Ask your boss for feedback
Go to your bosses before the summer is over and ask for constructive criticism. Tell them you want the truth, even if it hurts. You may be surprised by what you’re doing wrong. I certainly was.
1. Make sure to ask for what you want
I’ve seen interns come and go. The few who got hired full-time were those who made clear what they wanted to contribute. Consider Emma Teitel. While most interns would offer story ideas at our weekly meetings and then sit and wait, Teitel dared to propose opinion columns, something most interns feel too inexperienced to write. The bravery paid off. She was hired as a columnist.
Salaries, employment rates don’t match perception
Many students pursuing bachelor of arts degrees enter university expecting to need further training or education, so it doesn’t hurt as much if we can only score a minimum wage job after graduation. We’re all aware of the barista with the B.A.
But the realization that a bachelor’s degree doesn’t guarantee a job hits harder for those who believed they chose fields with more jobs and higher pay: bachelor of science students.
Sara Sparavalo, in year four at Dalhousie University in Halifax, is about to graduate with a degree in chemistry and biochemistry. Before university, she was unsure about her chosen career path, yet she expected a bachelor of science degree would give her more opportunities.
Policy paper challenges benefits of working while in school
It is well known that many students are required to work in-study (while in school) to pay for post-secondary education. As the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance’s recently released Student Employment paper points out, the in-study employment rate has gradually risen over time. Labour force participation rates for current university students have increased by more than 10 per cent since 1976.
Curiously, not everyone agrees that this is a problem. Some point out that the National Survey on Student Engagement has shown some in-study employment can be correlated to increased levels of active and collaborative learning. This should surprise no one. Real world employment opportunities have always been helpful to student learning, which is why nearly every university wants to offer more experiential learning.
However, it must also be recognized that not every in-study experience is particularly useful. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine the scientists of the future describing their tenure at Starbucks as particularly fundamental to their training. Unfortunately, this type of in-study employment is all too typical.
It’s hard to turn a profit, but it’s fun
Frances Strathern, 24, started making jewelry at age 14, went on to major in Jewellery and Metals at the Alberta College of Art + Design and then started franny e fine jewelry in 2010. She got a $15,000 loan to open a “tiny” gallery space in Calgary and worked part-time elsewhere until recently to make ends meet. She still works seven days of the week, but now it’s entirely for herself. It hasn’t been easy. She’s just now “approaching” the point where she can support herself financially. Still, she loves it. Here’s her story.
Did ACAD prepare you for this business?
ACAD is very hands-on and studio based, but then you have your academic classes as well. It was a good balance of the conceptual art side of things with skills, but it just didn’t prep us very well for the business side of things.
Employment drops in six of 10 provinces
Canada experienced the worst jobs performance in almost four years last month as 54,500 full time, private sector positions disappeared — an unexpectedly big drop that erased a gain in February.
The loss was the biggest since February 2009, and along with a small retreat in the number of Canadians looking for work, helped lift the unemployment rate two-tenths of a point to 7.2 per cent.
Economists had expected a weak March to even out the above-trend gains of February, but few saw such massive bleeding, leaving the country with about 26,000 fewer jobs than at the beginning of the year.
To make matters worse, all the pay-back was in the full-time category.
The losses in the economically important private sector were mammoth — with 85,400 workers joining the ranks of the unemployed.
Teacher’s college says we’re out of luck until 2015
I got a call from Montreal the other day. On the other line was a man who represented a teaching agency in London, England. He had seen my email and resumé and said that I could come over to teach after completing the required paperwork.
When I decided three years ago to follow my calling, moving across continents for a job was unfathomable. I predicted I would send out resumés after graduation, then a school board within a reasonable distance from my home would ask me to work for them full-time as a teacher, everything would be hunky dory and I would decorate my classroom with dry-erase markers of every colour (you can never have too many).
The above scenario was obviously a delusional fantasy.
I recently learned in an email from one of my instructors here at York University’s teacher’s college that, in keeping with regulations agreed to with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, school boards will essentially no longer be allowed to do external hiring until all current occasional teachers have had the opportunity to apply for available jobs. In other words, until the huge backlog of certified teachers—many of whom are fighting tooth and nail just to land a supply teaching gig—have had their shot at a full-time job, fresh teacher college younglings need not apply.
Canada can no longer count on oil to produce jobs
In his 25 years in the oil industry, Preston Reum has seen his share of booms and busts. Back in 1989, when Alberta’s oil industry was in the midst of a downturn and unemployment in cities like Edmonton topped 10 per cent, Reum collected T4 slips from 11 different employers as he jumped from one job to the next in search of a steady paycheque.
“You’d have a friend and whoever got a job, we went and worked on that rig and when that job was done, you’d know another guy running a rig and you’d go there,” says Reum, now a general manager at service-rig contractor Essential Energy Services. “You just stuck with it and worked for anybody that had a job.”
With each boom-bust cycle in Alberta, Reum has lost friends and employees, tired of the long, cold days in remote work camps, weeks of unpaid downtime and the uncertainty of living paycheque to paycheque. When the industry took a hit in 2008 and 2009 in the midst of the global recession, Reum says workers left in droves for jobs in the construction industry or mining in Saskatchewan, while others took up plumbing apprenticeships in the cities. Many experienced workers who had flown in from Atlantic Canada went home and never returned. Reum says the jobs that skilled workers found after leaving the industry often came close to matching the salaries in the oil sands, while also offering regular pay and nine-to-five days at job sites much closer to home.
Clean-tech sector grows
For Chris Rogers, owner of Corporate Chemicals and Equipment in St. Catharines, Ont., the wake-up call came when his father Cecil was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 2000. Cecil, who owned the business before Chris took over, had worked in the industry since he was 18. “He opened my eyes to what he thought was the cause,” Rogers says: the vats of chemicals that surrounded Cecil through his working life. “I started to rethink things.” The company, which makes and sells sanitation supplies, started going green—a philosophy that’s affected everything from products to marketing and, of course, its employees. “The green chemistry of today is the everyday chemistry of tomorrow,” he says. The same could be true of green jobs.
Canada’s green economy is growing fast. Our clean-technology sector, made up of more than 700 companies, saw an 11 per cent jump in employment between 2008 and 2010, according to a January report from the Pembina Institute, a non-profit environmental think tank. Once considered a niche, the green-jobs sector is now comparable to the booming oil and gas extraction sector, and has exceeded the aerospace industry, says a 2012 report from Analytica Advisors, an Ottawa-based consulting firm that specializes in clean energy.
Canada’s “green-collar jobs” aren’t just found at clean-technology firms. More than 12 per cent of the Canadian workforce “has some sort of environmental initiatives within its work,” says Grant Trump, CEO of the non-profit ECO Canada. Another four per cent of the workforce spends more than 50 per cent of its time on environmental activities, he says. And 17 per cent of Canadian companies—318,000 in total—employ one or more environmental professional.
Skills mismatch may mean 1.5 million vacancies by 2016
On a recent February evening, Karl Eve received an emergency call from a restaurant owner in Canmore, Alta. The busy eatery had suddenly found itself with no hot water, even though the basement hot water tanks appeared to be working fine. A plumber with 10 years’ experience, Eve eventually traced the problem to a malfunctioning dishwasher and got the hot water flowing again—much to the owner’s relief.
It’s the sort of detective work Eve says he loves about his job. He also likes that his plumbing business, which he runs with his wife in nearby Exshaw, provides his family with a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. But it was a career he very nearly missed. Never a fan of textbooks, Eve ended up toiling in a southern Ontario gypsum mine after high school. It was only after moving to Alberta years later that he considered a career in the trades. A chance meeting at a church potluck led to a ride-along with a local plumber and, ultimately, an apprenticeship. “I discovered there was a lot to learn, especially when it came to math,” Eve says of his four years of training, which included eight weeks a year in a classroom. “The amount of education was very surprising to me, but in a positive way. I grasped it with both hands, so to speak.”
Eve’s story is more rare than it should be in Canada. Many consider the trades to be low-paying, go-nowhere jobs, if they consider them at all. But it’s a perception not grounded in reality, as Eve’s healthy hourly rate of $90 to $135 suggests. Nor is it one Canada can afford to maintain. Numerous studies warn Canada is facing a massive shortage of skilled workers over the next few decades as millions of baby boomers hit retirement age and exit the workforce.
Prof. Pettigrew says it isn’t a lack of skills training
Earlier this month, student Mercedes Mueller caught my eye with this provocative open letter to Canadian university presidents, accusing them of having failed students by not paying enough attention to their “career ambitions.”
Here’s the key bit:
Universities pride themselves on teaching students critical thinking and reasoning skills. Yet upon entering the workforce, many grads have little to offer employers in terms of “skills.” Skills, primarily associated with the hands-on learning done at colleges, are a severely lacking component of university curricula. When one considers that the majority of BA graduates would like to enter the workforce without having to obtain further degrees, learning a skill or two in undergrad isn’t asking a lot.
Students come to university to get a job, she explains, and thus deserve to have “degrees worth more than the paper they are printed on.”
Colleges create programs in response to industry demand
Amy Gordon was in the middle of completing her second university degree when she decided to go to college instead. Gordon already had a degree in biology from the University of Alberta, and was studying chemical engineering at the University of Calgary. “I was getting really tired of learning lecture-style theory. I had an itch to get more hands-on and learn more,” says the 29-year-old.
So she left U of C, and is now nearing the end of a two-year diploma program in instrumentation engineering at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton. Gordon has been getting the hands-on training she wanted in labs supported by—and named after—Spartan Controls Ltd. The company has poured about $8-million worth of equipment into the program since 2007, essentially creating labs that replicate what it’s like to work in a refinery, giving students access to training on new technology.
Colby Cosh sorts out education, job training and credentials
When you join a national newspaper or magazine as a writer, you start getting a lot more email from three kinds of people: PR folks, the insane and journalism students. Over the past decade I must have had 30 or 40 appeals for help, interviews, or extensive advice from J-schoolers. More famous colleagues must be well into the hundreds. This seems pretty paradoxical, from a labour-market standpoint. Although Maclean’s is a happy exception, the overall enterprise of journalism is shrinking, not growing. At least it is if we’re talking about paid journalism. This goes double for paid print journalism, and triple for paid print general-interest journalism.
If I were to drop dead tomorrow, the column inches I left behind could be filled pretty easily, perhaps by a cat trained to walk across a keyboard. But the journalism students who want to know about my career path and trade secrets are not idlers. They are people who have already invested heavily in training and effort to take my job, or one like it. This is puzzling, not only because I have only the one job for dozens to fight over gladiator-style, but because I never bothered with any of this training myself. Nor did many of the people who haunt, or even boss, big Canadian news institutions.
Ryerson supports startups with Digital Media Zone
Phil Jacobson thought getting a business degree would help open doors on Bay Street.
He didn’t expect it would also help him become a big wig on Main Street.
“I figured, out of all the undergrad possibilities that were out there, a business degree would position me as the most well-rounded coming out of school,” said the 22-year-old president and co-founder of mobile app PumpUp.
“So I could either start something or get a great job and just have those good skills.”
After graduating last summer from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., Jacobson decided that his dream wasn’t to get poached by a big financial firm. Instead, he wanted to continue working for himself.
And he’s not alone.
Networking, resume and interview tips from a pro
This week’s Maclean’s includes a special report on the future of jobs that shows how university graduates have an especially difficult time launching their careers in today’s shaky economy. But you have to start somewhere, and there are plenty of things you can do to boost your chances of getting hired. Just ask Stéfan Danis, a man with 25 years of recruiting experience who is now Chief Talent Officer & CEO of the firm Mandrake. In this interview, he offers advice for recent graduates.
I hear stories of graduates who have applied to hundreds of jobs online, and with little success. How can graduates get interviews?
Networking. What you should do is get a board of advisers who are a little bit more senior than you. You set up a little network around yourself so that they can open doors for you. Simply sending your resume in response to job postings is not going to get great outcomes just because of the sheer [volume of] competition. It’s very difficult to stand out from the crowd.
Tell me more about this ‘board of advisers’ idea.
Let’s assume you want to be a marketer for a consumer products company. Do a bit of research through your alumni network or personal contacts or using LinkedIn. Target 10 individuals who are maybe two or three years into their careers—so you’re not a threat. If you reach out to them, hat in hand, inviting them to give some counsel, offering to buy them a coffee so you can pick their brains and build relationships with them, when there’s a need for a junior person in the marketing role at their company or elsewhere, they’ll provide you with an extraordinary amount of information.
LeadSift is evidence of hot Atlantic tech sector
The student founders of LeadSift, a company whose software combs through Twitter and Facebook data to generate sales leads, set out last fall in search of $500,000 of investor cash.
It was an easier than expected hunt.
The Halifax startup pulled in $1.13 million, including $500,000 from OMERS Ventures (the venture capital arm of OMERS, one of Canada’s largest pension funds), as well as a contribution from Dan Martell—Canada’s 2012 angel investor of the year, according to KPMG and Techvibes.
The LeadSift foursome, international students from Dalhousie University and Acadia University, could have raised more money, but decided to cap their fundraising round and ultimately turned away some interested investors.
Fifth of employers plan to add workers
Canadian employers expect the hiring climate to hold steady in the second quarter, dipping slightly from the previous quarter, according to an employment survey by Manpower Inc.
The poll of 1,900 employers from various sectors found that 20 per cent plan to hire workers in the three-month period from April to June.
Five per cent said they anticipate cutbacks to hiring, while 75 per cent said they will keep existing staffing levels.
Overall, the poll found that the net employment outlook was 12 per cent, a small decline of one percentage point from the first quarter of 2013.
Ontario and B.C. show biggest gains
Canada’s economy showed signs it may be ready to bust out of its half-year funk by churning out a surprisingly strong 50,700 new jobs in February, most of them full-time, in the private sector and in Ontario.
The outsized gain was enough to keep the unemployment rate at the four year low of 7.0 per cent despite the fact over 60,000 Canadians joined the labour force in the month, another good signal for the economy.
Regionally, Ontario was the biggest generator of new jobs, adding 35,300, followed by British Columbia with an increase of 19,800. Quebec had the biggest drop in employment, shedding 13,100 jobs.
Economists had expected a second weak month in February given that most indicators have been pointing to modest growth and January saw an outright loss of nearly 22,000 jobs. The forecast had been for about 8,000 new jobs.
But instead the labour market reversed all the negative signals sent out in January, and then some. Not only did job gains swamp the previous month’s losses, but Canadians who had exited the labour force returned with a vengeance.
Working for ‘exposure’ is sometimes a raw deal
Like so many other starry-eyed hopefuls, I started a band in my freshman year.
Starved for music venues and promoters that would give us the time of day, we naively agreed to play a show for a production company. These were the terms we accepted: the band was responsible for selling tickets to the “showcase” concert at $10 a piece. Twenty or so artists were crammed onto the same bill and asked to compete against each other for the most ticket sales. The incentive? Set times (both length and placement) would be determined by which band sold the most tickets. It was unpaid. In exchange for our trouble, we were promised only exposure .
A Ryerson graduate shares some advice
I’ll never forget my first week of journalism school.
Fresh out of Queen’s University’s English program, I entered Ryerson University’s Master of Journalism program in the fall of 2010 with a stint as co-editor of the Queen’s Journal and two solid internships—at the Kingston Whig-Standard and Maclean’s—under my belt.
Ryerson’s serious-looking website promised a hands-on, “rigorous and intensive” program. I was only 21, and I figured I’d be competing for lucrative paid internships alongside people with diverse but equal, if not better, experience. It was called a ‘master’s degree’ after all.
It wasn’t meant to be. During my first reporting class, the instructor mentioned in passing the “lede,” basic newsroom shorthand for the first sentence of an article because it (surprise!) leads the story. One of my classmates raised her hand. “Um, what’s a lede?”