'Cautious optimism' as new grads begin job hunt
unemployment, jobs, job fair, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, jobless
Published Saturday, April 21, 2012 5:23PM EDT
Signs of spring are apparent across Neaz Mujeri's university campus. Fresh grass emerging in the quad, light varsity sweaters replacing heavy coats and a bustling patio at the campus pub all signal that the season of renewal has arrived.
But on the academic calendar, a different kind of rebirth is underway. Graduation is imminent for yet another batch of college and university students and thoughts are turning to the idea of full-time employment.
Though Mujeri is still in the thick of final exams at Ryerson University in Toronto, the final year business student has already started searching for a career-path job.
"I heard somewhere that you should start at least one or two months prior to graduation," he said. "I don't want to sit around after I graduate, so the sooner I get hired the better."
With an eye toward his anticipated convocation in June, the 25-year-old spruced up his resume and began networking at two job fairs. Having landed three job interviews so far, Mujeri said he hopes he's on his way to becoming a financial analyst.
His search comes as the unemployment rate for youth aged 15 to 24 sits at 14.7 per cent. By comparison, the national unemployment rate is 7.4 per cent, according to Statistics Canada. Following four straight months of declines, employment fell again last February among youths.
"With the whole economy and everything, it is pretty hard to get a job," Mujeri said. "I'm trying to be optimistic. I'm trying as many different channels as I can."
Mujeri continues to take advantage of the resume clinics and other services at Ryerson's Career Development and Employment Centre, where also he works part-time as an outreach and events assistant. In this role, he goes from classroom to classroom, telling other students about the centre.
Last month, the federal government announced it would be shuttering its student summer job centres in favour of expanding online employment services. The seasonal job hubs were open from May to August and offered career coaching and resume writing tips to youth aged 15 to 24.
Further west, Jarrett Woodhouse is pursuing career connections through acquaintances, friends and family. The University of British Columbia student is on the hunt for a sports-related marketing job -- a field which could fuse elements of his kinesiology major with his commerce minor.
"My goal is to work for a sporting apparel company or professional sport franchise," he said in a phone interview from UBC's Vancouver campus.
Through networking, the 21-year-old has already sniffed out leads with companies such as Lululemon Athletica, Nike Canada and Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment. While in school, Woodhouse was involved with his undergraduate society, worked for UBC's athletic department in fan development and completed a placement course in his chosen field.
Still, there is some trepidation about post-graduation job opportunities.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," he said. "I think that it's definitely difficult to get a job specifically in what you are looking to do."
Woodhouse points to the baby boomer cohort and wonders whether the job market is perceived as tough for youth because older generations are staying in the workforce longer.
It's a timely guess, given the recent release of a report indicating many baby boomers are expected to delay their retirements by one or two years to recoup losses to their nest eggs.
According to the Conference Board of Canada forecast, the nation's labour market isn't expected to return to full employment until 2016. The last time Canada edged close to that status was just before the 2008–09 recession.
Young workers were particularly hard hit during the worst of the economic slump four years ago, explained economics professor Gilles Duranton.
"Whenever there is a recession, those that suffer the most in terms of unemployment and labour market employment are those on the margins of the market," said Duranton, a University of Toronto lecturer.
When it came to employment during that period, youth and others such as senior workers and those trying to re-enter the labour market had the odds stacked against them.
But that was then. Now, however, Duranton said youth may face a new set of difficulties.
"It's not technically a recession, but it's not boom time," said Duranton. "Employers will be able to make demands on workers -- particularly new recruits -- that they wouldn't have made before."
Though Liana Sciascia has dreamt of being a teacher since kindergarten, the 22-year-old said she anticipates it'll be tough to make her way to the front of the classroom.
"A lot of people are saying it's hard to get into teaching now because so many people are applying," said Sciascia, a final-year student at York University in Toronto. "I hear people have been on the supply lists for years and still don't have a contract."
Sciascia said she's hoping her French major will set her apart when her resume is reviewed by six different Ontario school boards. In the absence of a steady job, she said she's willing to start her career in any way possible -- supplying, working on contract or taking over a maternity leave.
Failing that, Sciascia said she hopes to at least find a related position such as tutoring.
"I don't want to get too ahead of myself but I want to be optimistic," she said.