How to Cross the Bridge Between Education and Industry
As a third year university student, I’m reaching that point where I’m starting to look for companies that could be my potential future employer. I’m searching far and wide for companies that share the same values as me, provide opportunities for growth, and have an amazing work culture.
If it were only that easy.
In today’s job search, it isn’t uncommon for youth to find themselves frustrated as they anxiously wait after applying to job after job, sometimes even after 50+ applications. In fact, the youth unemployment rate this past January was 12.8%, which decreased due to fewer youth seeking employment (Statistics Canada). The statistics clearly indicate a sense of discouragement.
But why is this the case?
Over the past few years there’s been talk in the news about the effects that retiring baby boomers will have on the population. What has always stood out to me, amongst issues such as higher healthcare costs and pensions, was the concern that companies are unable to replace these workers after retirement. In fact, this concern has become so important that the government of Canada announced changes in the Old Age security program back in 2012. Old Age Security pension and the Guaranteed Income Supplement will gradually increase from 65 to 67 over six years, starting in April 2023 (Service Canada). But coupled with a steadily growing Canadian population, why aren’t we able to replace these workers with others who want to work?
Something’s not right here.
For me, there appear to be two things that immediately come to mind. First, there isn’t enough training in the workplace implemented in time to anticipate these workers leaving. Now, of course, I’m not saying to replace these highly skilled workers with recent graduates, no no. Once a veteran employee retires, the next in line of seniority should move up, and so on. That person at the top gained their skills somehow, often through a combination of education and experience. Then as the lower workers move, the graduates can take entry-level jobs, right?
There are (unfortunately) a number of issues with this idea. First, if everyone shifts up, then everyone needs to be retrained. Training employees costs time and money, even if it develops the skills of the employees. And as we’ve seen recently with falling oil prices, Canadian companies are trying to cut costs wherever they can. But as a result, you’re left with organizational structures that constantly do patchwork rather than moving cohesively through the ranks. We then come to the second issue at hand, a lack of practical skills at the graduate level. To fill the spots an organization needs, there’s bound to be tall orders from the organization. X years of experience in a related field is a common one. A graduate might not have this experience yet, but they have a variety of skills that they’ve gained from university, right?
Often organizations value certain skills that aren’t emphasized very much in post-secondary schools. Teamwork, presenting, public speaking, and leadership are often cited as desirable characteristics in applicants. But when the main purpose of university is to gain knowledge on certain subject areas, these skills are thus overlooked, or are simply thrown into the curriculum in order to give some hint of experience, but with little coaching or mentoring. Sure, our faculties tells us to “get involved”, but how much involvement will actually get you those skills lacking in the classroom?
Whatever the answer is, at least I’m not the only one with this question.
To combat this issue, youth are stepping up to make their voices heard. An example of this is the Canada Youth to Business Forum powered by AIESEC Canada. AIESEC, the world’s largest student-run not-for-profit organization, provides leadership experiences through international exchange in over 125 countries and territories. Last year, 140 Canadian students did work placements abroad through AIESEC, 439 students volunteered abroad, and 78 students came from around the world to work in Canada. Within Canada, over 2600 students are members of the organization from 30 universities across the country. This year on May 8 in Calgary, representatives from Cenovus, Center of Excellence in Financial Services Education, Ivey Master of Science in Management Program, and Calgary Economic Development will be discussing various topics under the theme of bridging the gap between education and industry. AIESEC members will have a chance to ask questions, and give insight into their perceptions of industry.
So when will our education catch up to the needs for the workforce? It’s tough to tell, but at least I’ll be able to tell these corporations what people my age are facing. Then it’ll be a race: who can adapt fastest between corporations and the education system? Ready, set, go.
-Jay Turchansky, Public Relations Writer, National Support Team, Business Development
To find out more about AIESEC Canada’s 2015 Youth to Business Forum, please email Hang Tran at email@example.com
Click here for more information on how to hire global talents through AIESEC.
Service Canada. (2013, November). Changes to the Old Age Security program. Retrieved from http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/services/pensions/oas/changes/index.shtml
Statistics Canada. (2015, February). The Daily – Labour Force Survey, January 2015. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/150206/dq150206a-eng.htm