The state of the labour market is intimidating for upcoming graduates, but the future may not be as bleak as it seems. Lindsay Fitzgerald reports
She tossed her smoke onto Yonge Street and went back inside. The Friendly Thai handed her more than $8 per hour of work under the table for that night. As she left to go home, she was greeted by a screeching woman and a mouse scurrying away.
“I need a real job,” she thought.
That was one of the more hopeless moments Candice van Ravenswaay has had three months before graduating from Ryerson with an undergraduate degree in finance and a minor in law.
“The professors don’t have to tell us. It’s all over the place; all over the news, from all the people we know that have graduated and don’t have jobs,” van Ravenswaay said referring to the tough job market and recovering economy students are facing.
Some may say she has reason to be worried. The unemployment rate has risen to 7.6 per cent according to the latest Labour Force survey released in January.
Close to graduating, internships are unrealistic for van Ravenswaay. She spends her summers saving for tuition and her low level jobs still make a heftier figure than her sister does as a professional medical ultrasound technician.
“Everyone I know is taking longer to graduate,”said van Ravenswaay. “I will need more credentials; another license or designation.”
So how’s the “real job” market and economy looking post-recession?
The Drummond report is the most recent statement on Ontario’s economy. It was released on Feb. 22 with over 300 recommendations from Canadian economist Don Drummond.
“Ontario faces a series of deficits that would undermine the province’s economic and social future,” the report said. “While employment in Ontario is growing again and has already recovered all the jobs lost during the recession, young people, recent immigrants and Aboriginals continue to under- perform.
“The recession worsened their employment outcomes, but they struggled in the job market well before that.”
A friendlier figure for business and technology students is Statistics Canada’s measure of big job vacancies. Industries of “professional, scientific and technical services” are at one of the lowest unemployment-to-vacancy rate at just over two per cent.
Outside of the reports and drowning market figures is the growing trend of self-employment. When businesses won’t hire, some people choose to start their own. “I never worried about a job, never looked for a job, always dreamt about starting my own business,” said Alexey Adamsky, a Ryerson graduate who is doing his masters degree in computer science.
Adamsky started his own company, Three Red Cubes, with a few other Ryerson graduates and the company now operates out of the Digital Media Zone (DMZ). The team started by developing games and programming a few years ago, and is now focused on mobile and web applications.
“There’s no single idea,” he said. “We’re always coming up with new ideas.”
Adamsky held a few part-time jobs for a short period of time and worked with DMZ for the research group before starting his business.
“The biggest challenge is we are still students,” he said.
Adamsky said doing his masters requires a lot more self-teaching than a bachelor’s program with class-time and courses. Learning how to manage his own time more effectively gave him the opportunity to develop his own business.
“University gives a solid base,” he said. “But most of the things I know now I’ve taught myself.”
As a company owner looking to hire in the future, Adamsky doesn’t care where a new employee’s experience is gained.
“At the end of the day what matters is you can do what you can say you can do in an interview,” he said. “You need to put in your own time to get practical knowledge.”
He also advises students to get their masters for a leg up if the industry in question is especially competitive.
Felicity Morgan, a career councillor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, recommends interning, contract work, volunteering, extended schooling and networking to get ahead of the game in the job market.
“The more you get out there, the more opportunities you come across. [By] doing things and talking to people you can create a lot of who-you-knows,” she said.
She tells students to look at “everything as an opportunity.” She graduated at the end of the last recession and remembers her first job in a shoe store. While she didn’t study shoes in university, it paid the rent. But that survival job paid more than just the bills because she was working with people.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used those skills. It helped me figure out what I wanted to do,” said Morgan.