What’s happening with new grads opportunities?

It’s not nice to start a blog post stating that one feels sad or concerned about something, though it’s worse to say that one feels disappointment! This is the ending of a storm of feelings that have crossed my mind and my heart after I read this article about the rising trend in youth unemployment, particularly among recent graduates. Nothing could deviate my ever-present smile and positive attitude toward life than such an unfair situation like this one.

Sure enough we live in a very unjust world, no surprises there. However, it comes to a sad realization when the main character involved in the story is oneself. To this point, we must all admit that we are a bit detached to someone else’s problems as far as those problems don’t get to close to us. In this case, I am not only close to this subject matter – qualified youth unemployment – I am well within it. By saying this I am still focusing on whatever is affecting me at the moment, and leaving so much -that affects others – outside. My understanding of this seemingly selfish approach is that by writing these articles I may be helping other fellows in my same situation, and in doing such I serve a purpose. In my reasoning, that’s a better way to start to do something rather than complaining and criticizing.

So here are the true facts: 13.2% of youth unemployment in BC -largest of all four western provinces – with a very subtle increase from previous years. Seen that way it doesn’t look like a huge problem, and the government finds refuge in those -they say- good figures, obviously always comparing to a even worse government administration of the past. No surprises about them both: statistics and politicians. Neither of them are absolutely genuine in reflecting what really happens at the ground level. I don’t mean to blame anyone for anything, and I am not trying to show any sympathy or rejection to any political party at all. I am simply expressing my point of view on a subject that affects a group of people in this province  – and to a similar extent to the rest of the Nation – a group that is the economic foundation and living future of citizens in this area.

So how do we reconcile the political discourse with the reality we need to face everyday when we courageously jump onto job search engines and positively keep looking for new opportunities? Is it realistic a government program says “there are so many new opportunities around the corner” when they mainly advertise and promote jobs related to the construction and oil-related industries? I am not against these industries, but we have to realize that this cannot be the only venues through which all job vacancies are expected to be created. First of all because it would result in a “discrimination” for so many other disciplines, and second because the whole economy cannot rely only on two or three activities. What would happen when the growing boom of these fields start to decline in years or decades? Where would all the workers turn to? Can the BC Jobs Plan be considered successful up to this point? I leave it up to you…

Reading about the comments of the article I came across some really wise pieces of realism and pure logical analysis. It all revolves around youth discern to choose the right program with a future career projection. However, this is not always the case. Here’s where the first main flaw in the system comes into play: it’s general belief that it is important to have a degree, but no one ever mentions that depending on what that degree is about will firmly and undoubtedly impact our chances to land a good career path after graduation. The second great flaw is part of the orchestrated platform through and from which educational institutions try to recruit students at any cost. As someone mentions, the educational system has become an outstanding business machine. It sounds harsh to the ears of some, but it is the raw reality. Today, universities and colleges are all about having more students to pay more tuition fees, and quality of education, content, prospective advancements, and successful career planning are overlooked. This brings along the major of problems: it is all focused on having as many students as possible, and not on carefully planning a strategy that will help them succeed in their careers once out of the academic system. A very shortsighted and economically-driven policy. Evidently true though.

How are we going to deal with the number of unemployed young professionals who are struggling to land a respectable job where they get paid fairly for the large investment they made when pursuing a university degree? What are the answers to this talented youth who feels that is wasting their time underemployed in survival jobs? What will be a new approach to current difficulties faced by this group? Do politicians have actual believable and applicable initiatives?

Employers on the other side don’t make things much smoother either. Even when I can’t generalize about all fields, when it comes to science and particularly biological sciences, it looks like employers have become pickier than ever in the last few years. The number of requirements asked in a job ad seem to far exceed any realistic reach for recent grads. The more certifications and experience they require, the more it becomes evident that there’s a need for further education, at least short specialization courses offered by numerous institutions. However, this also turns into a vicious cycle where one degree has already left students in debt, and having to further their qualifications will increase that debt even more, but without those certifications there’s no real chance to land the job. It is a sticky situation where most are forced to enter the labor market in underestimated conditions, where their degrees and effort to obtain them are worth nothing by no one.

In my very humble opinion, I think there is one thing that the government can do: pass laws that regulate the percentage of entry level/recent graduates who are hired by companies. The recruiting department of companies will be responsible to inform how many of the recent hires were given to entry-level young professionals, and so gave them the chance to start building a path into future to those ones. I know of a Provincial Program aimed at youth with post-secondary degrees, helping  them connect to employers, where the government offers economic incentive to the employer if they recruit and keep a young professional at a certain position. BC’s representative of this program, Douglas College, has benefited with a great deal of subsidies to strengthen the program. Too bad former students with “Post-Graduate work permits” are forbidden to apply. This is a paradox that I will devote a whole blog post to very soon.

The task for new grads is not easy, and while some insist in blaming the students themselves for making bad and uninformed choices, I’d be more inclined to think it is a shared responsibility of three main actors: students, educational institutions and the government (we could well include employers here too, although that’s a bit more controversial and accepts further discussion). Until there is no agreement in a coordinated and articulated functioning of these three parts there will be no conciliation, and very hardly any change. My ideal change would be the government taking its part in accepting the Jobs Plan has not come to its full success, and needs to be readdressed: give true answers to a broader spectrum of young grads.  Am I being too idealistic? I hope not.

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