Private school

A look into the post-COVID job market

We’ve moved from an employer’s market to a worker’s market—where students and new grads are taking full advantage of their autonomy

Special Advertising Feature: Private School Guide Fall 2021 

Finally, some good news for students and new grads after a long, hard few years: We’re moving fast from an employer’s market to a worker’s market, says Vancouver-based future of work expert Cheryl Cran. “For the past few decades, the employer has had the upper hand to say, ‘Here’s your job and how to do it, and here’s what it pays.’ People would stick around only because of fear—fear of instability, fear of losing their job, fear they won’t find another job.”

March 2020 and beyond unfolded a little bit like exposure therapy. Just as people feared, the market (nay, the whole world) destabilized, nearly one in 10 Canadians lost their job and unemployment rates spiked when they couldn’t find another. Of those still working, a survey from Lighthouse Labs found 57 per cent of Canadian workers are seriously considering quitting anyhow to pursue a new career entirely. With nothing to lose and willingness to walk away from bad jobs, we’ve moved nicely into a worker’s market.

“In 2021, no one’s taking a job for the sake of taking a job,” explains Richard Lachman, director of Ryerson’s RTA School of Media. “Even retail and fast food—both frontline facing jobs known for attracting students—are having problems finding people. The risk of working there is not worth the wage they pay, so we’re seeing those jobs dry up.”

Where are they going after tossing away that apron? Universum, the largest career reference survey in Canada, asked thousands of students what industries piqued their passion. “Any institution related to e-commerce, cannabis and gaming became very attractive,” says Universum’s managing director Jason Kipps. “Anything frontline became less attractive.”

No matter what path they choose, students still need and appreciate guidance to help them get there. At Trafalgar Castle, for example: “All students in Grades 7 to 12 complete an annual Education Plan to ensure their path is on track and successful,” says Rhonda Daley, director of community development and engagement. Their guidance program uses interest surveys, speakers, university fairs and experiential career visits to job sites. Similarly, Rosseau Lake College uses annual “Discovery Projects” where students enjoy a week-long deep-dive into careers of interest and complete a project of their own design.

At The York School, director of university counselling David Hanna has the unique challenge of trying to prep grads for a world that doesn’t exist yet. “What is a future job? Manager to AI robots working on a solar panel field in orbit?” Even so, Hanna’s grads will be ready no matter what the markets of the future hold. “The key is becoming aware of your talents, finding things you’re good at and what you like, and then wanting to continuously improve.”

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.