Negotiating an evolving job market

Basing your career choice on current employment trends is a bad idea, says Toronto career specialist

The best asset an employee can have in today’s job market is adaptability, says Jobmatics owner Kathy Harris.
The best asset an employee can have in today’s job market is adaptability, says Jobmatics owner Kathy Harris.
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With the job market and employers’ expectations changing daily, your best asset upon entering the market is the ability to roll with the changes.

Kathy Harris, owner of Jobmatics, a Canadian career-consulting firm, said in order to take advantage of the job market, you need to be skilled not just in your specific field, but in the world of technology.

“The possibility of technology today in [the] workplace is only limited by your imagination,” she said. “The skill sets students need to have has become more complex, and it’s changing constantly.”

Harris said the pace of change has reached a point where the employers themselves can’t pinpoint what exactly they should be looking for in prospective employees.

“I have sat at so many meetings where [counsellors or teachers] are trying to figure out what it is that they have to know and what it is that they have to be teaching. They ask ‘What skills sets do employees need?’ and the answer they receive from the companies always is, ‘I need them able and willing to learn,’” she said.

School of Business professor Peggy Cunningham said 20 years ago her job search was very different than it is for students today.

“The available resources were limited,” she said. “You were pretty much on your own.” The entire process of looking for a job has changed now, Cunningham said. A lot more information is made available to a lot more people thanks to technology.

“The use of Internet and online boards has made huge difference to access of information, and the amount of opportunities,” she said.

Cunningham said the demand for workers right now is huge and will continue to grow.

“It’s been predicted that human capital is going to be the biggest shortage,” she said. “If you look at just Calgary, they’re screaming for people to fill the jobs. If you look at northern communities, the pace of growth is outgrowing the ability to fill that growth.” That adaptability and willingness to learn will be the norm for the future work force, said Toronto-based career information specialist, Suzan Bloom.

“In the next 10 to 15 years they’ll be doing [a job] that’s not even invented yet,” she said. “The importance is being flexible.” Bloom said it’s hard to tell which sectors will be most affected by the future trends. More importantly, students shouldn’t choose their job based on those predictions.

“It’s a bad idea to take a job based on a trend. A) it may not happen, b) it may not last, c) you may not be happy in it.” David Edwards, School of Business career counsellor, said you not only have to be ready for change in the job market, you have to embrace it.

“I enjoyed working with people, when there’s a restructuring, who [don’t] just say ‘I’ll go along with it, but ‘I’ll go along with it, and let me help you,’” he said.

Edwards said some types of jobs will experience more worker shortages than others.

“We’re in a knowledge economy, and what that means is people who have higher education [are] generally going to be more demanded in the marketplace.” A report published by Human Resources and Social Development Canada stated that over the 2006 to 2015 period, two thirds of all job openings will require a candidate with post-secondary education.

Edwards said the other major area that will be hit by worker shortage is trade. “We’re massively short of people to do very skilled, technical work. And I tell you that [for] those people, you do not want someone who failed out of high school. You want someone who is bright and understands the technology they’re working with.”

Students can take some comfort knowing that there are a lot more of jobs to go around, especially for people with a university degree, Edwards said.

Overall, Canadian Labour Market studies show that employment growth will outpace labour force growth on all skill levels within the next 10 years. Seventy per cent of those job openings are due to retiring baby boomers.

“I will tell you that I’ve spent years with [a] bulge of people sitting on top of me. I can tell you that as those people retire, there will be [an] increasing need to promote people quickly,” Edward said.

But, this doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing for new graduates, he said.

“The other side of that is that companies are not going to promote people that are not qualified, not skilled or not mature enough to go into those roles. A lot of companies would much rather have thinner ranks and the right people than fill all the roles and have lots of mistakes created.”

Marketable skills

The following is a list of the most critical skills you need in the workplace, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

FUNDAMENTAL SKILLS

• Communicate

• Manage information

• Use numbers

• Think & Solve problems

PERSONAL MANAGEMENT SKILLS

• Demonstrate positive attitudes and behaviors

• Be responsible

• Be adaptable

• Learn continuously

TEAMWORK SKILLS

• Work with others

• Participate in projects and tasks

Source: Employability Skills 2000+ conferenceboard.ca/education

Projected future growth

3.3 per cent
Therapy and assessment professionals

3 per cent
Physicians, dentists and veterinarians

2.7 per cent
Pharmacists, dietitians and nutritionists

2.5 per cent
Nurses, supervisors and registered nurses

2.5 per cent
Medical technologists and technicians

2.2 per cent
Civil, mechanical, electrical and chemical engineers

2.1 per cent
Athletes, coaches, referees and related occupations

2.1 per cent
Technical occupations in civil, mechanical and industrial engineering

2.1 per cent
Technical occupations in electronics and electrical engineering

2 per cent
University professors and assistants

Source: Looking-Ahead: A 10-Year Outlook for the Canadian Labour Market (2006-2015), hrsdc.gc.ca/

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