Over the past nearly two years CERIC has travelled from coast to coast meeting with stakeholders from the career practitioner community as well as provincial government officials. Throughout our “Road Shows”, we have encountered a passionate group of professionals dedicated to supporting Canadians in their career development. In addition to informing participants about CERIC’s role in advancing education and research in the field, we have sought to engage our audiences in dialogue. We want to better understand how we can equip career practitioners with the tools they need to do their work. What follows are their voices on the challenges they face and successes they’ve found in their organizations, their sectors and their communities.

Figure 1. Map charting stops between March 2010 to December 2011.

Check out future dates at ceric.ca

Craig Mackie – Executive Director at PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada (Charlottetown, PEI)

Prince Edward Island has been experiencing an unprecedented influx of immigrant entrepreneurs over the past couple of years; the direct result of the province actively recruiting through the Provincial Nominee Program.

All newcomers face three challenges when they arrive in Canada. First, they have to gain a functional ability in either English or French. Once they have that established, the second challenge is to either find employment or open their own business. This will give them an ability to stay in the province, but what will keep them around for a long time is if they feel socially included in their new home.

Having a solid business mentorship program on PEI would mean that newcomer business people would be helped in their first foray into Canadian business and they would begin developing a social as well as a business network. The Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce has recently started a Connector program for newcomer business people. This is a good beginning to helping newly arrived immigrants stay longer.

Jan Bottomer – Music and Arts Career Advisor at McGill University CaPS, Career Planning Service (Montreal, QC)

Engaging students in career exploration and planning as early as possible prior to graduation is an ongoing challenge for those of us who work in post-secondary environments. The closer students are to graduation, the more overwhelming and stressful the whole process of becoming educated about careers and searching for jobs often feels, and the harder it can be to get motivated. However, once students do pay a visit to career services and learn about the information, resources and support available, their confidence tends to rise and anxiety levels drop. Thus, the earlier we can engage students and encourage them to become “career literate,” the better! At CaPS we find that students who make use of our services tend to have a greater understanding of job market realities and job search strategies, to feel more comfortable with networking and to be more proactive in their search. Even if they still don’t know exactly what they want to do, their enhanced knowledge and understanding is empowering and makes the whole process much less scary, and much more positive.

Leo Leclair – Specialist High Skills Major Program Coordinator for Rainbow District School Board (Sudbury, ON)

When you grow up in a mining town it’s not hard to figure out what you need to do to get a job. For generations you were always considered employable if you were brave and strong enough to grab a pick and shovel and head down the hole. Well those days are gone and so are those jobs. A local mining company once employed over 10,000 miners and support staff. Today it only employees 3,900 and produces the same if not more output than ever before. Taken from a recent posting, an example of today’s knowledge and skills required to be a miner consist of:

  • Maclean Bolter experience
  • Jumbo Drilling experience
  • Jackleg and Stoper
  • Scoop tram (heavy equipment)
  • Blasting
  • Experience in ITH
  • Underground Construction / Shotcrete

Most of the jobs posted by mines today include the word “Engineer” at the end. When speaking to the 21st century generation, parents and career counsellors need to focus more on the ever-growing mining service and technological sector. Mining companies are no longer the major employer, unless you are one of the many businesses being hired as contractors.

Don McAskill – Assistant Superintendent, Senior Years and Career Programs for Frontier School Division  (Winnipeg, MB)

For many, moving from rural Manitoba to a larger centre such as Winnipeg is necessary for education and employment. The transition is difficult and many return home disillusioned. The good news is that there is support through a number of agencies that are dedicated to assisting people coming to an urban centre. A great resource is Partners for Careers. Its core mandate is to offer job placement assistance to Aboriginal job-seekers looking for employment, training or continuing education throughout Manitoba. It also operates a “signpost” of services for both Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals trying to make the transition to Winnipeg. A valuable resource they have created is Guide to Winnipeg for Aboriginal Newcomers and is available free of charge. This guide will help connect them to the larger community. Check out their website at www.partnersforcareers.mb.ca.

Naomi Fowlie – Vice President at IRCI, Integration Resources Canada Inc. (Ottawa, ON)

Employers are challenged to hire top talent. Meanwhile, highly skilled, experienced, Internationally Educated Professionals (IEPs) are under or unemployed. How to bridge this gap?

Many IEPs have never thought in terms of career choices and personal balance. Nor have they experienced the myriad of management styles seen in Canada. Setting up a meeting for career research with a professional in the same field may be seen by the IEP as asking for a favour as opposed to merely help in answering questions. During a job interview, often IEPs downplay their skills as they perceive it as bragging as opposed to merely stating facts and presenting ideas to an employer.

As career professionals, by discussing these distinctions with IEPs, we can help them land their dream job – a position that matches the needs of the employer.

Brent Wellman – Director, Edwards Career Services and the Cameco Business Co-operative Education Program / MBA Internship Program at Edwards School of Business & University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, SK)

Over my past 23 years of working with experiential education, I continue to be amazed by the type and quality of work our undergraduates have performed and the contribution of each of those students as they return to university to complete their degree. The confidence and the level of knowledge they gain through co-operative education provides a wealth of experience to apply in the classroom and into their career aspirations. Graduates who have participated in the experiential learning programs continue to lead the way with full-time employment ahead of those who did not participate.

Just as I finished writing this, one of our professors stopped by to give a thumbs up to what we were doing with the Co-op program. The professor has a number of students in the current class who have returned from their co-op experience and have stood out from the rest of their classmates with their attitude, their ability to lead a discussion and their overall maturity.

Tami Anderson – President at Best Foot Forward Consulting Inc. (Calgary, AB)

When a company creates a staff that is the essence of their organization, they succeed in their core business.

Successful employers provide diversity, career development, including advancement, and direction with constructive feedback for their employees. Communications are open, honest, respectful and inclusive.

Career practitioners have historically helped people get jobs and build careers. Maybe we need to work with both sides of the partnership – the employer and the employee. We can help companies invest in their staff. And, we can teach employees the skills to be retainable.

The goal? Success – right from the point of hire.

Pass on what you know to those on the hiring side. Perhaps you’d even consider inviting those executives to the Cannexus conference.

France Bélanger-Houle Manager, Options Emploi at Collège Boréal (Sudbury, ON)

Options Emploi, a division of Collège Boréal, has a specific mandate in the Sudbury community: to provide employment services to francophone job-seekers and assist employers with the recruitment of employees who meet their specific needs. The challenges are diverse, but the most important one is finding and retaining qualified bilingual staff to work in career and employment services. We seek competent individuals who have formal training in social services with an expertise in the employment field. We have, however, achieved some success by recruiting graduates from our Social Services program, while offering additional training to develop the required skills in employment and career coaching.

Alastair MacFadden – Manager of Service Delivery at Canada-Saskatchewan Career and Employment Services (Regina, SK)

Job-seekers with disabilities face added challenges in a rural community, where there can be few mentors and support services can be scarce. Many career counsellors recognize that living with a disability can impart character and resilience, and make for exceptionally determined and dedicated employees. The difficulty comes in finding employers who recognize that same potential.

Strong job matching support is especially valuable in rural communities because these services connect the worker with: (a) a job that fits their career vision, and (b) a supportive work environment that values their contribution. In rural communities, supportive workplace relationships take the place of the formal job coaching, transportation services and other supports you find in an urban centre.

Beatrice Traub-Werner – Director of Education at TAPE Educational Services (Toronto, ON)

Career counsellors focus on aptitude, interest, skills and personality as the elements of the internal psychology of a candidate to link to and match these characteristics to employability and a course of study. In the current economy, this match can become a challenge. Magnify it a thousand fold if your client struggles with mental illness, as unemployment is both cause and effect, and poverty a given for most in this vulnerable population. “Gaps” in resumes need to be explained; stigma all too often prevails over equitable access. What was once a match may no longer be possible; an entirely new, different approach to the world of work is needed.

Tony Botelho – Manager, Career Services & Volunteer Services at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, BC)

Generation 1.5 students are those who have moved to Canada in order to obtain a Canadian high school credential. Some arrive as pre-teens, others arrive for their final year of grade 12. They are not identified as international applicants by post-secondary institutions, meaning they will not likely have to provide evidence of language proficiency. It also means they are harder to identify and track.

Though a diverse group, many of these students feel considerable pressure from family members to perform well academically. Many of these same family members also feel that completion of the degree is the key to future success and thus do not place value on work experiences or other co-curricular activities that might extend their schooling.

For career educators, these students are best supported by providing information that helps them with their continued understanding of Canadian workplace culture, and also gives them to tools to share these new insights with family members. However, this information should also be provided in ways that allow students to make sense of the conflicting information they’ve been receiving, and to construct it in ways that are meaningful to them.

David Gwilliam – Supervisor, Recruitment at SaskPower (Regina, SK)

Recruiting today requires you to promote your company and jobs where the people are – and today that is the world of social media. Facebook has almost 800 million members, LinkedIn has almost 140 million and Twitter almost 200 million. Almost half of all Canadians are on Facebook.

SaskPower has used social media for recruitment for a number of years. We have an online presence in the big three social media tools through a Facebook page, a LinkedIn page and a Twitter page. The key to these tools is candidate searching and interaction. Social media allows you to find groups and individuals and interact with them to start conversations about working with you. Also, when candidates want to ask questions at career fairs we direct them to our social media sites to have conversations with any member of our recruitment team.

With its minimal cost and ease of use, I expect social media will become the preferred tool for finding candidates in the near future.

Donna McAlliste – Executive Director at Durham Region Employment Network (Oshawa, ON)

Age has long been a barrier to employment although most equate the challenges to the inexperienced young. However, recent economic events have left many older workers displaced from workplaces in which they have built their careers. Over 55, they are considered to be too expensive to employ and/or have out-dated credentials, education and skills. Many have not job searched, developed a resume or had an interview in years, if not in decades. In Durham Region, hit hard in the economic downturn, older workers are challenging career counsellors to build on experience. A timely subject indeed with Canada’s aging workplace demographics.

Phil Jarvis – Executive Vice President for Global Partnerships at Career Cruising (Memramcook, NB)

A “perfect talent storm” is on the horizon. Many Canadians are looking for jobs. Paradoxically, even more jobs are looking for people. This imbalance will grow in coming decades and should signal a “buyers market” for job seekers. But the jobs looking for people don’t want many of the people looking for jobs. They lack 21st century skills employers now demand. These include higher ICT and STEM proficiency, combined with strong “soft skills” like communications and teamwork in diverse groups, a thirst for learning and innovation, and solid character traits like dependability, responsibility, initiative, integrity and perseverance. Communities wishing economic prosperity, despite the storm, must ensure their citizens develop 21st century skills and help them locate good 21st century jobs.