Job availability now determines career path, not ability or interest

By Sabrina Almeida

The worsening employment situation has many parents concerned about whether their children will be able to find jobs. As a result several are now urging their offspring to choose a career based on solely on its employment options. One might argue that without interest and ability you could be trying to fit a square peg in a round hole… but all this is centered on the premise that you land a job in the first
As I scouted the Internet for some career guidance, I was surprised to find STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) was considered a high-growth area. That might be a hard pill to swallow for the dozen or so engineering graduates I know that are without jobs and not for a lack of trying. While an engineering degree is perceived to have a certain status it doesn’t seem to propel you to the front of line these days.
A South Asian man recently told me how upset he was to find that one of candidates he interviewed for a ‘project coordinator role’ in the healthcare sector had an electrical engineering degree. She had previously worked for ten years in unrelated fields. What made him despondent was the fact his son is pursuing the same stream.
Another mother whose son graduated with an engineering degree from the University Ottawa two years ago echoes his sentiments. Even networking couldn’t help the young man because firms were simply not hiring engineers. So where is this growth?
Healthcare jobs and careers are next on the list, but I would push them up to the number one position. With an aging population, demand for healthcare professionals is likely to grow tremendously. Especially as dementia among seniors is on the rise and there is a lack of specialized care here. Yet not everyone is cut out to be a nurse, doctor or PSW (personal social worker). I’m not sure I want to be attended to by a healthcare professional whose only motivation was the perks.
That being said there is no denying the opportunities (at least when compared to manufacturing or retail). After two years of study one is likely to find openings as a PSW in healthcare facilities, one mother told me. I know a couple of young ladies who have opted for nursing, which is already panning out for them. But even here location might impact job availability and you must be willing to relocate. Supply far outweighs demand in the GTA. Two of the girls who found jobs, live and work far north of this area.
All-in-all it is still a safer better. So if your children are still open to suggestions it might be prudent to nudge them towards occupations and industries that provide support to the aging.
Trades people on the other hand might be laughing their way to the bank. In fact the Federal Skilled Trades Program puts industrial, electrical and construction workers at the top of the list for immigration. Many incentives are also provided to encourage high school students to pursue a career in the trades. I’ve heard more than one parent telling their children to join a trades program as jobs are almost assured. While this might seem rather cold and calculating, the fact is that after paying what is comparable to a mini-mortgage for a degree (and recovering from it could take a lifetime) there is no guarantee you will find employment in a related field.
Vocational counsellors are now urging students and job seekers to expand their horizons and be adaptable to changing scenarios. Apparently you must be able apply your education and experience to suit different situations. Really! What does that even mean? I guess the engineer working as a project co-ordinator in healthcare is a case in point.
Further skills related to computers, digital technology and social media are becoming increasingly important, irrespective of the industry you work in. Candidates must also give serious consideration to soft-skills i.e. interpersonal skills, leadership and management abilities which seem to tip the scales more than qualifications and experience.
As more jobs migrate to other countries, new entrants face stiff competition from experienced talent that has been let go. New immigrants add to the candidate pool and have an even tougher path to tread. In the end it is like the lottery, a luck of the draw! And the odds don’t appear to be favourable…

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