Who’s hiring today’s graduates?

The best place for students to weather the economic downturn might be in the classroom

Graduates are entering a job market where entry-level positions are very lean and competition for their services isn’t what it was just last year.

Though Canada continues to perform well, the U.S. economy is weathering a recession comparable to the early ’90s. But if one digs deeper into what’s happening on this side of the border from the perspective of a student looking for work, it’s apparent that while some industries are growing rapidly, many others are being hit hard by the American downturn.

Furthermore, the demographics of the Canadian population have created a unique scenario where companies that are downsizing are still hiring graduating students. What does this mean for graduates? For the most part, they may not find the job they wanted while going through university or college, but they won’t starve.


Traditionally, the top students with the highest grade point averages were wined and dined by companies in the high-tech, consulting, and investment banking industries. Students in second and third year would hear stories of fourth year students receiving signing bonuses, and see them coming to school in new cars.

Last year’s story was, “so and so just got paid by Accenture not to work for six months.” This year, there is no story. Most companies in these industries are not actively recruiting and many are in the midst of restructuring. Nortel and JDS seem to be continually downsizing and this is a bad sign for graduates looking to work in high-tech. Consulting is just as tough a market right now, with most firms minimizing their visibility on campus this fall.

Many companies in these industries rescinded job offers because their businesses soured in a matter of months. As a result, many recent graduates, who thought they had jobs, found themselves applying to post-graduate programs this year. MBA schools across North America have reported record levels of applicants as today’s youth realizes the best place to wait out the economic downturn is in the classroom.


This past May, opportunities were abundant in industries such as retail, hospitality, financial services, health care and government. These industries are still actively hiring students from all disciplines.

The retail industry just reported record sales in June after a dip in May and economists are noting that consumers are continuing to spend even as the stock market is falling. Retail is one of the biggest employers in the country and many of the major players have fast-track management programs for graduating students. The big box chains like Staples and Future Shop are great examples of companies that are always searching for graduating students.

The hospitality industry is alive and kicking, feeling little fallout from Sept. 11. Hotels, resorts, restaurants, food service companies and other businesses associated with the industry are hiring. Part of the reason for this growth is the weak dollar. Many Canadians can only afford to vacation domestically, while Americans are taking advantage of the falling loonie and visiting their “discount neighbour” north of the border.

The financial services industry needs graduates to work in IT, finance, marketing, human resources and customer service. Banks and insurance companies are providing most of the jobs in this industry. One of the key trends is the creation of high paying call centre jobs to service customers via the phone and over the Internet.

The health-care industry is looking for nurses globally to fill vacancies and nursing majors are being wooed by hospitals on both sides of the border with aggressive compensation packages that include signing bonuses and moving allowances. Nurses are also finding work in retirement homes, private nursing companies and insurance agencies. This creates a great job market for nurses and has also led to new job opportunities for students who want to work in the head and branch offices of healthcare companies. Many health-care organizations are looking for students with degrees in rehabilitation, nutrition, pharmacy and caregiving. As the population ages, the demand for employees in health care will continue to increase and this is a trend that should last for the next 30 years.

The government is dealing with a major crisis at the federal, provincial and municipal level as the average age of its workforce approaches retirement. Some of the most innovative recruiting is now being done by government agencies, competing to hire the same students as the private sector. The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, emergency services, public utilities and the military are all aggressively recruiting on campus. The Canadian Armed Forces is a great example of how the government has worked to brand itself as a secure, yet exciting, employer to launch a career with. The Armed Forces recently ran ads in movie theatres that were often more exciting than the feature film.

Recent surveys on jobpostings.ca have shown that students on Canadian campuses are nervous about job prospects upon graduation. About 85 per cent of respondents are considering going back to school for a second degree. This validates the point that the media is succeeding in creating doubt in the job market. However, our research and conversations with employers in the above industries revealed there is depth in the job market and students might find themselves landing dream jobs in an industry they never considered before.

Mark and Nathan Laurie are the founders of Canada’s biggest student jobs magazine, jobpostings, and Canada’s student job site, www. jobpostings.ca. They can be reached at (416) 932-8866 or [email protected] [email protected]

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