Careering

Why diversity is crucial to success in STEM

STEM needs diversity of all kinds to survive and thrive

By Christin Wiedemann

Diversity has become a buzz word; there are diversity councils, diversity festivals and job titles that have the word diversity in them. Everyone is talking about diversity, but does it really matter – or is it just hype? Does diversity matter when we talk about STEM? The truth is that not only does diversity matter, without it, STEM would quickly stagnate.

When we talk about diversity, we typically talk about diversity of gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, nationality etc., but we must not forget to also include neurodiversity. We not only look and act differently, we also think differently. Furthermore, it is important to understand that everyone is a conglomerate of identities, and that we cannot address a lack of diversity by viewing people as “building blocks” that individually add one dimension, or unit, of diversity.

Rather than focusing on specific attributes, building a diverse team starts with providing an inclusive environment. Inclusion allows us to bring together different people with different strengths and different weaknesses; people that complement each other and make a stronger team. We need diversity; diversity drives innovation, and diversity is key to our growth as individuals and as organizations. STEM is no exception.

Diversity leads to innovation

STEM is a term used to group together the academic disciplines science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and when we talk about STEM professions, we include a very broad spectrum of roles and industries. One thing they all have in common though, is that we associate them with creativity and innovation. We rely on STEM to give us new medical devices that save lives, smart applications to make our banking easier and fun games that help us learn a new language. Such innovations would not be possible without diversity in STEM.

Innovation is the ability to imagine something new, something no one has done before. Innovation is having the creativity, and courage, to ask new questions and seek out potential answers. A homogeneous group is likely to ask the same questions over and over again, potentially with some minor variations. A heterogeneous group, on the other hand, is more likely to ask different questions because its members all bring different perspectives and viewpoints.

Diversity improves performance

Diversity also makes us adaptable. In recent decades, we have seen plenty of big companies, including Kodak and Blockbuster, perish because they could not adapt. Some companies fail because they don’t adapt to a changing market and changing needs of their customers, or because they failed to innovate. Kodak is now infamous for having failed to recognize the impact of digital photography, despite the first digital camera having been invented by a Kodak engineer. Blockbuster had the opportunity to partner with Netflix early on, but their focus on profitability prevented them from seeing Netflix as the disruptive innovation it was.

It would be interesting to know how diverse the workforce was of companies that failed to keep up with change, in particular at the executive level. Organizations and teams need diversity to stay relevant, and leveraging internal differences can give companies a competitive advantage.

Furthermore, numerous studies indicate that organizations that have a diverse workforce outperform other companies financially. The most-diverse companies are more likely to have above-average profitability, and this effect is especially strong if the executive management team is diverse. Studies have found that in some cases, an increase in diversity generates a direct increase in earnings.

A diverse workforce also means you have access to more talent. Diverse hiring increases the talent pool significantly; there are more potential candidates when you take diversity into account, and diverse hiring is also likely to attract more talent. An organization that publicly states that it values diversity will have an edge over other organizations in the competition for talent.

Three ways STEM companies can boost diversity in hiring

  • Provide appropriate training in diversity and implicit bias to everyone involved in the recruiting process
  • Review job ads for bias, and strive to create job postings that attract a diverse set of candidates
  • Actively identify candidates, aiming for a diverse pool of candidates before the selection process begins
Building better teams

Are there any benefits of diversity for the individual? Interestingly enough, there is research that suggests that diversity makes us perform better. Working in a diverse group forces us to work harder and to critically review our work, thinking of alternative ideas and solutions before presenting it to another group member. We would be less inclined to engage in such scrutiny in a homogeneous group where we would anticipate no disagreement. Working in a diverse organization is also more stimulating and interesting, although it can create challenges.

To summarize, diversity drives innovation, diversity makes us adaptable and diversity even makes us smarter. A lack of diversity in STEM would lead to fewer discoveries, which means fewer, and potentially less viable, solutions to humanity’s most pressing problems. Without diversity, we cannot harness the full potential of STEM. That is a strong enough case for diversity being relevant to STEM, but there is more. Recent examples of how artificial intelligence amplifies biases from the real world very clearly highlight the need for diversity in STEM. The people working in STEM professions need to represent the people using STEM products and services – they need to be representative of society as a whole.

No matter how you look, behave or think, STEM needs you to build a more diverse, and thereby better, future for everyone.

Christin Wiedemann is a passionate advocate for women in STEM, a passion she pursues through work and volunteering. She has been on the Board of Directors for SCWIST, the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology, since 2015, and in 2018 she took on the role of Co-Chair of the BC Chapter of WCT, Women in Communications and Technology. As a consultant, Christin has been fortunate enough to work on a variety of projects in very different environments. Her work has increasingly been focused on coaching and training.

References

Why diversity matters (McKinsey&Company) 

Businesses perform better when they have greater ethnic and gender diversity, study reveals (Independent)

More Evidence That Company Diversity Leads To Better Profits (Forbes) 

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Careering

How Eastern Ontario is addressing gaps in the manufacturing workforce

The manufacturing sector offers many opportunities – and they’re not always what you’d expect

By Alysha Dominico

Isn’t it wonderful when we can set our kids up for a career success, encouraging them to take courses they love and that will lead to meaningful work? That could start to happen a lot more in Canada, but only if we start to give young people the advice they need now about the future of work and the manufacturing sector’s place within it.

According to Ontario East Economic Development Commission (OEEDC) data, in Eastern Ontario alone, there are currently 65,000 employees in manufacturing, and a large portion of that population is reaching retirement age. Manufacturing, you say? Isn’t that the career that generation X and millennials were told to aim higher than and avoid?

For whatever stigmas it has acquired, it turns out our economy can’t really survive without manufacturing. Granted, manufacturing in Canada is not the manufacturing you may expect – there are incredibly clean, lean and advanced processes happening in facilities across the country.

Bay of Quinte-based Kruger offers a clean, technology-focused facility and is a leader in new technologies, like robotics. The Proctor and Gamble plant in Belleville, ON, provides opportunities for skilled workers to use self-guided vehicles and “arm-like loading robots.Hannafin Inc. provides support to companies that want to include automation and technology in their plants, and the Bay of Quinte area, where Hannafin is based, is rich in demand for technological services for advanced manufacturing. According to CME research, manufacturing in Canada helps to provide growth in every single other sector by 3.5% per manufacturing facility. It’s facilities like these ones, based in eastern Ontario, that help to drive the Canadian economy.

As extreme technological, social, and economic change increase demand for workers, the manufacturing sector faces new challenges to prepare the workforce for future jobs. The sector will need to fill the gaps left by the retiring baby boomer generation, and is already needing to fill positions for the following while also ensuring workers have the technical skills required to keep facilities globally relevant:

  • Entry-level labourers
  • Skilled trades such as industrial millwrights and electricians
  • Engineering professionals such as manufacturing and chemical engineers
  • IT professionals such as computer programmers and systems analysts, and
  • Purchasers
  • Human resource professionals,

Given the pace of technological change, many of the jobs that students train for now will change in just a few years’ time. In fact, in the report “Humans Wanted: How Canadian Youth Can Thrive In the Age of Disruption,” RBC says that despite “heavy job displacement in many sectors and occupations, the Canadian economy is expected to add 2.4 million jobs over the next four years.” This will require a new mix of skills for which we currently are not trained.

A skill set that combines soft and hard skills will be in high demand in future employees. Manufacturing requires people to have soft skills in order to work together to solve problems. As technology continues to evolve, employees will need to be able to adapt, solve problems and effectively communicate, as part of a team or in leadership positions.

To prevent these gaps in workforce and training from widening in the coming years, Eastern Ontario’s workforce development offices have aligned to identify the key contributing factors to this growing problem. The Eastern Ontario Manufacturing Workforce Development Project (EOMWDP) is working to address these issues and provide solutions for employers, jobseekers and youth to attract, hire and retain quality employees, develop skills and create opportunities for further professional development.

3 ways the EOMWDP is addressing the gaps in the manufacturing workforce

The EOMWDP is a holistic undertaking, bringing together key players throughout Eastern Ontario to create conversations and provide resources around the exciting opportunities in manufacturing for jobseekers, young people and students.

Removing the stigma around manufacturing by raising awareness of the great opportunities that exist in the sector can help open new paths for jobseekers and young people. Below is a sample of how the EOMWDP is beginning to assess the resources and opportunities available in the region to:

 

1. Develop strategies to fill anticipated workforce skills gaps

Jobseekers, youth and manufacturers have to know the other exists and may need help connecting to each other. The EOMWDP can facilitate those connections, whereas the other parties might struggle to find the resources to make strategic alliances or conduct outreach. Communications will be created in order to provide outreach tools to assist the many audiences of the project.

Career advisors can help, too, by making clients aware of the opportunities available to them. Courses such as Elevate Plus from Loyalist College are helping people who are underemployed or unemployed retrain for key manufacturing positions required at the entry level in the Bay of Quinte area in Eastern Ontario. It’s this kind of innovation – industry partnerships with post-secondary institutions – that has the power to transform our workforce, giving them the skills they need to enter into a new sector and quickly climb to positions that may not have previously been available to them.

2. Show the world that manufacturing in Eastern Ontario is a first-choice career

A primary goal of EOMWDP is to communicate and effectively market careers in manufacturing as exciting, high-technology, top-choice options. Highlighting incredible stories like those you see in Team Brockville Job Bank’s videos on YouTube shows you a culture of people who are incredibly proud of what they have accomplished in manufacturing. Current opportunities in manufacturing are often underestimated or misunderstood, but by better explaining the industry and its perks, potential jobseekers can be better informed to determine if an opportunity in manufacturing is a good fit.

Additionally, existing programs to attract residents to the region can be built upon by sharing the job opportunities that exist in manufacturing.

3. Determine how best to support economic development offices

The EOMWPD is investigating how to help local economic development offices (EDOs) best communicate with workforce development boards using workforce data. This will allow the two groups to work together to address current skills shortages within manufacturing and future skills shortages over the next few years.

Educational communications will be constructed to help inform EDOs about the tools they can use to skillfully attract the workforce to the region. These tools can also be used by EDOs to work with educational experts, workforce development officers and employment offices to bring everyone onto the same page to support manufacturing labour in the region.

Facilitating strategic partnerships for manufacturing workforce training

The EOMWPD is embarking on an information-gathering, partnership-building, strategy-creation project for Eastern Ontario’s manufacturing sector. It will bring together the experts, innovators and communicators to ensure that all the best information is gathered to support workforce development in the region. The lessons and best practices learned in Eastern Ontario could apply across the country, in the hopes of supporting this rapidly changing technological industry on a national scale. If you want to know, more follow EOMWDP blog for news, strategies, and updates.

Alysha Dominico is Project Coordinator of the Eastern Ontario Manufacturing Workforce Development Project (EOMWDP). The EOMWDP is a project by the Ontario East Economic Development Commission and is funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to support manufacturers and jobseekers in finding each other.

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Careering

Women and girls weigh in on gender diversity in STEM careers

Policy makers, educators and career advisors have worked to remove barriers, but stereotypes still contribute to low numbers of women in the field

By Beverlie Stuart

Across the country, we have seen an increase in the number of forums and discussions regarding gender disparity in STEM fields. These efforts symbolize a movement to change the career choice story girls have absorbed over generations: that they are less capable than boys when it comes to careers in STEM. Nationwide, policy makers, educators and career advisors have worked tirelessly to remove barriers and encourage girls to pursue careers in STEM, but stereotypes persist and contribute to low numbers of female workers and students in the field.

According to Statistics Canada, girls remain less likely to choose a career in STEM, especially in engineering, mathematics and computer science. Unfortunately, even in 2018, young girls are subtly discouraged from advancing their STEM skills and knowledge in school and in play.

What girls are saying

Early intervention with respect to career awareness and exposure is necessary to attract girls to STEM and retain their interest throughout their education. Parents are unquestionably the greatest influence over their children’s career decisions, and tools and resources must be provided for families to foster interest and support their girls to explore STEM careers.

At a recent CanU event (a Winnipeg-based charitable organization run out of the University of Manitoba), young girls in Grades 7-12 were asked if they knew of anyone who worked in a STEM career. All the girls knew men (fathers, uncles, brothers) in this field, but only one out of 15 knew of a woman who worked in STEM (as an electrical engineer).

When asked why they think girls do not take STEM courses/programs, they shared that they: feel they do not fit in, do not have enough confidence and that teachers encourage the boys in class more than the girls. The girls also had some solutions: spread awareness and offer support to girls, have teachers encourage both genders in all subjects and change the stigma for girls.

The value of role models

The adage that you can’t become what you can’t see has never been more accurate than when it is referencing female role models in the workforce. For the past three years, a dedicated group of volunteers from Manitoba’s ICT sector have gathered to discuss, brainstorm and implement change for gender parity in the field. Led by the Information, Communication and Technologies Association of Manitoba (ICTAM), the Maven Action Committee plans and executes ongoing roundtables to recruit and showcase female role models in the STEM workforce.

At these forums, women currently working in STEM careers and women who have left careers in STEM have shared many insights. Among them:

  • Women often feel that they are not smart enough to pursue careers in STEM. One woman shared that it was her mother who suggested she do so because it paid well and she would always be able to support herself.
  • Like the young girls interviewed in the CanU event, many of the women indicated that throughout secondary education they were seldom encouraged in STEM learning or to pursue careers in STEM.
  • Policies such as allowing employees to work from home and work flexible hours are integral to improving gender parity. This is especially valuable for women who are the primary caregiver in their family.
  • Some women have lower confidence when returning to work after maternity leave.
  • Men can create a dominant and aggressive culture, which can exclude women from participation.
  • Women are comparatively more receptive to constructive feedback, which can be interpreted as being submissive.
  • Women found men were offered more money for the same position. Being transparent about salaries in an organization can help pay equity.
Recommendations from women

In addition to criticisms of the status quo, the women who attended the forum also had ideas to improve things for the future. The attendees of the roundtables shared the following recommendations with one another:

  • Disrupt the education system by intentionally infusing STEM learning coupled with career awareness and exposure to careers in STEM as early as kindergarten.
  • Parents, teachers and caregivers should introduce girls as young as five years old to STEM learning through play. There should be more gender-neutral toys that embed STEM learning.
  • Female role models need to be purposely introduced to girls throughout their formative years.
  • Support one another by sponsoring/mentoring young women in the STEM community.
  • Be an advocate of using gender-neutral language.
  • Blow your own horn – it was observed that it’s easier for men to take credit. Women need to get better at taking ownership of their work.
  • Employers should offer training and personal development opportunities to employees who are on or returning from maternity leave.
  • Career development and succession planning in an organization can create retention.
  • Support the attraction, recruitment and hiring of women into careers in STEM.

Young women (and the parents and teachers who guide them) need to recognize that STEM learning paves the way for careers in all sectors and positions, from the front lines to leadership roles. The career possibilities are truly endless.

The future of work will include technologies and jobs that we can only imagine in 2018. The world of work is changing so rapidly that sought-after skills that include the knowledge, skills and abilities realized through STEM learning are essential. Girls are wanted (and needed) in STEM careers.

Beverlie Stuart, Associate Vice President, Business Development and Strategic Initiatives, Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, has close to 30 years’ experience in organizational leadership, career and workforce development, and strategic human resource planning and development. Her experience includes designing, developing and implementing initiatives and strategies for developing Manitoba’s workforce.

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Changing the status quo for women in STEMCareering

Changing the status quo for women in STEM

Initiatives to encourage girls and women to pursue technical careers haven’t translated into the realities of the workplace

Rachel Morgenstern-Clarren

This is an exciting time for women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) industries. However, there are still lots of challenges to overcome before true systemic change results in women being treated equally. What is the current status of women in STEM in Canada? What are the challenges and solutions? And what can be done to change the status quo?

Overview of the status of women in STEM in Canada
In the tech industry, the quit rate for women is more than twice as high as it is for men.

While there have been many initiatives designed to encourage girls and young women to pursue technical careers, as well as programs and organizations that advocate for women leaders, research from the Center for Creative Leadership shows that those investments don’t translate into the realities of the workplace, where very few women are actually retained and promoted to senior roles in STEM[i]. Across the board, the quit rate is higher for women than for men in STEM[ii]; this is especially true in the tech industry, where the quit rate for women (41%) is more than twice as high as it is for men (17%).[iii] Furthermore, instead of progressing into more senior engineering and leadership roles as they gain experience, many women end up moving into project management and marketing positions. This is a loss for STEM industries that must be addressed.

Where’s the Dial Now?, a 2017 study by Toronto-based organization #MovetheDial, MaRS and PwC Canada that surveyed over 900 Canadian tech firms, confirmed that gender inequality exists in the industry. Only 5% of Canadian tech companies had a solo female CEO and only 13% of executive team members were women; 53% of tech companies had no female executives; and women accounted for an average of 8% of director roles. Additionally, 73% of firms had no women on their boards; 70% of Canadian venture capital firms that finance young tech firms had no female partners; and only 12% of all partners were women. Although this study was tech-specific, the trends are unfortunately similar for all STEM fields. According to a PEW Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, for instance, women make up 75% of health-care practitioners and technicians, but only 25% of computer professionals and only 14% of engineering professionals[iv].

Overview of the challenges faced by women in STEM

In recent years, different studies have been conducted in order to determine why the figures on female retention and promotion in STEM fields are so dire, with the hope that companies can try to address the root of the problem. Research shows that several factors play a role in women leaving their jobs or being unable to access leadership positions.

Some of the most common issues with regard to the corporate culture are pay inequality, a lack of mentorship and coaching, implicit gender bias, unpaid maternity leave and a lack of flexibility around outside commitments, especially family[v]. Ultimately, many women switch companies to move up the corporate ladder or end up leaving their fields altogether. Companies need to be more proactive about fostering an inclusive, collaborative work environment where women feel safe (and supported) to brainstorm, try out new ideas and put them into practice.

Solutions for increasing women’s retention and access to leadership in STEM

The issues connected to why STEM women leave their jobs and/or are unable to rise to the ranks of upper management are complex and interrelated, as are the solutions. However, there are several straightforward steps that companies can take to improve the workplace culture for women and help buck these trends.

In the office, employers can provide opportunities for mentorship and peer coaching to their female employees – recognizing their talent and potential by investing in their professional development[vi]. Both mentoring and peer coaching offer a safe environment for developmental feedback to be exchanged and mutual learning to occur, which helps not only the women, but the company[vii].

… instead of progressing into more senior engineering and leadership roles as they gain experience, many women end up moving into project management and marketing positions. This is a loss for STEM industries that must be addressed.

Outside of work, women often place a high premium on flexibility, so that they can pursue personal interests and/or have more time with their families. If women have children, an employer can invest in their future at the company by providing paid maternity leave as well as better (and more) childcare options to relieve the financial strain, while also giving the employee more time and energy to focus on her career[viii].

YES, a non-profit organization that is committed to career and business development for Quebecers, has developed a variety of initiatives over the past seven years to promote the recruitment, retention and advancement of women in STEM. Its Women in Tech project (2012-2015) focused on supporting and encouraging women to break into the tech industry, with a coaching series, mentorships, internships and workshops.

Currently, YES is running a project called Systemic Change: Advancing Women in STEM, which aims to increase the understanding of systems and institutional practices that affect women in STEM; provide access to strategies, tools and frameworks to help with the promotion and retention of women in STEM; and promote internal initiatives that will support female employees and influence their organizations to counteract gender bias. The project’s findings as well as a library of tools, resources, policy recommendations, and research will be available at www.YESAdvanceWomen.com in the coming weeks.

These initiatives are just a couple examples of how YES is working to engage employees and management across Canada to advance the status of women in STEM.

Why women give STEM companies a competitive edge

A diverse workplace reflects the diverse world we live in. Women are themselves customers and bring a unique and diverse perspective to any project – not to mention that female-led teams tend to have greater precision and attention to detail[ix], which means that they are more efficient and productive. In short, hiring and retaining women in STEM is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do, for all Canadian STEM companies.

Rachel Morgenstern-Clarren is a writer, translator and editor. She earned her BA from the University of Michigan and her MFA from Columbia University. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, she is now based out of Montreal.

References/Références

[i] Leadership Development Training for Women in STEM Careers, www.ccl.org/blog/leadership-development-training-women-stem-careers/

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Women in Tech: The Facts (NCWIT), https://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/resources/womenintech_facts_fullreport_05132016.pdf

[iv] 7 facts about the STEM workforce, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/09/7-facts-about-the-stem-workforce/

[v] The Leadership Lab for Women: Advancing and Retaining Women in STEM through Professional Development, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5737089/

[vi] Retaining Women in STEM Careers: Graduate Students as the Building Blocks of Change (NSF), www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/gradchallenge/images/winners/entries/second-place-parasite-ladies.pdf

[vii] The Leadership Lab for Women: Advancing and Retaining Women in STEM through Professional Development, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5737089/

[viii] How to Level the Playing Field for Women in Science, toolsforchangeinstem.org/how-to-level-the-playing-field-for-women-in-science/

[ix] The Competitive Advantage: A Business Case for Hiring Women in the Skilled Trades and Technical Professions (Status of Women Canada), https://cfc-swc.gc.ca/abu-ans/wwad-cqnf/bc-cb/index-en.html

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Got med school hopefuls? Special categories can helpCareering

Got med school hopefuls? Special categories can help

From Indigenous students to military applicants, there are several special application categories related to identity, descent and status

By Christine Fader

Do you have students who are interested in medical school in Canada? Many advisors are excited to learn that there are special application categories that can benefit particular demographics. These include categories related to identity or descent (e.g. applicants of Indigenous descent) as well as categories related to status (e.g. graduate student applicants).

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Career BriefsCareering

Career briefs

CERIC launches new book on how career theory informs practice

Career Theories and Models at Work: Ideas for Practice is a collection of contemporary and emerging career development theories and models that aims to inform the practice of career development professionals around the globe. The book was published by CERIC and edited by Dr Nancy Arthur, Dr Roberta Neault and Dr Mary McMahon. It has 43 chapters on the theories and models that define the practice of career development today, with contributors from four continents and nine countries.

Career Theories and Models at Work provides practitioners with a tangible resource they can use to develop theory-informed interventions. It is also anticipated to be used as a text for undergraduate and graduate courses in career counselling.

The publication is available in print and e-book via Amazon and Chapters.Indigo.

Learn more about Career Theories and Models at Work at ceric.ca/theories.

Students face barriers to work-integrated learning opportunities, HEQCO finds

A report from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) observes that student demand is rising for work-integrated learning (WIL) experiences, including co-op, internships, applied research projects, field experience and service learning. Many options for students are oversubscribed.

However, certain students still face barriers to participation in WIL. The report argues more could be done to increase the participation of first-generation, Indigenous and other minority students in WIL programs. It suggests one way to increase participation is to have faculty champions of WIL opportunities to promote them to students. Managing student expectations through consistent messaging is also important, HEQCO says. The report also notes that institutions must be prepared to help students with time and financial pressures they may face when taking part in a WIL program.

Check out the full report at heqco.ca.

NEADS releases report series examining experiences of graduate students with disabilities

The National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) released several reports this past fall as part of the Landscape of Accessibility and Accommodation for Post-Secondary Students with Disabilities in Canada national study, which was supported by CERIC and other organizations. The reports are based on a detailed analysis of the 2016 Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey. They include:

  • A Snapshot of the Experiences of Graduate Students With Disabilities Who Identify as Aboriginal
  • Graduate Students With and Without Disabilities: A Comparison
  • Comparison of STEM and Non-STEM Graduate Students With Disabilities

Some notable findings from the reports:

  • Of the 2,327 participants who identified as having a disability, 189 self-identified as Aboriginal. This equates to 8% of the sample of students with disabilities.
  • In the comparison of graduate students, the most common type of disability was mental health (43%); the least common was autism (3%).
  • Several demographic differences were found among graduate students with disabilities in STEM and non-STEM disciplines in terms of: age (students in non-STEM were typically older); marital status (more students in non-STEM were married); and number of children (more students in non-STEM had children).

Read the reports at neads.ca.

New CareerWise, OrientAction websites offer modern career development content and learning

At the end of November, CERIC replaced ContactPoint with the new CareerWise website, Your source for career development news and views, and also launched a brand-new OrientAction, its French sister site. The new sites reflect the evolving ways that people find and interact with information online. They feature relevant and thought-provoking articles on education, skills, counselling, employment and the workforce from a variety of publications. CareerWise and OrientAction also feature original perspectives from experts and community voices as well as round-ups of popular resources and events.

The new websites site build on the popularity of CERIC’s weekly content curation newsletters (CareerWise Weekly and OrientAction En bref), which were given a refreshed look.

Visit careerwise.ceric.ca and orientaction.ceric.ca to learn about the latest in career development, sign up for our newsletters or contribute a blog.

OECD report reveals findings on Indigenous employment in Canada

The report, Indigenous Employment and Skills Strategies in Canada, finds Indigenous underemployment persists, with Indigenous peoples still facing numerous barriers. The report states that Indigenous people are more likely to be in lower-paying jobs such as teaching, retail or social work. They are significantly under-represented in management, business and finance.

However, the OECD report also points to some positive changes. It finds skills-training programs are most successful when they are delivered and managed by Indigenous people for Indigenous people. The report also notes several municipalities have strategic policy frameworks targeted to local Indigenous populations, with city mayors meeting with communities to help build trust.

Read the report at oecd.org/canada.

TD Ready Challenge awards grants to organizations preparing for the future of work

Ten organizations were awarded $1 million grants through the TD Ready Challenge. The grants were given to organizations offering solutions in the areas of change identified by the Ready Commitment: Financial Security, Vibrant Planet, Connected Communities and Better Health. Among the winners:

  • ACCES Employment – providing immigrant women with training, employer connections and experiential learning to help secure and retain competitive employment in programming and cybersecurity
  • Woodgreen Community Services – helping mid-career participants achieve financial stability and sustainable employment through its accelerator program
  • Canada Learning Code – offering hands-on, accessible learning for mid-career individuals to increase their digital literacy and technological knowledge in order to thrive in a rapidly changing job market

View the other winners at td.com/readychallenge.

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Careering

Principles in Action: Embracing external influences to help guide career exploration

By Gloria Welton

With a goal of bringing greater clarity and consistency to our national conversations about career development, CERIC developed a set of “Guiding Principles of Career Development” that have been enthusiastically embraced across Canada. These eight Guiding Principles are intended as a starting point to inform discussions with clients, employers, funders, policymakers and families.

Each issue of Careering features a Guiding Principle “in action,” exploring how a career professional is applying a Principle in practice.

Guiding Principle: Career development is often supported and shaped by educators, family, peers, managers and the greater community. ceric.ca/principles

Knowing your expectations and values, being inquisitive, attentive and willing to talk with

people who can help lead you along your career-planning path is essential. But we can’t do this in a silo. We need each other to get the support and information required to navigate our career choices.

As a career development professional (CDP), I know that career planners have many people in their lives to help inform their career decisions. So, whether figuring out how to make sense of labour market information (LMI), working on experiential learning partnerships or evaluating a career planner/jobseekers’ motivations, assessing the different influences in their lives is important.

How the personal affects career plans

Some career advice is given to jobseekers directly, with parents or teachers suggesting career paths they think would be a good fit. But other influences are subtler, coming from a personal interaction with an industry or career path.

Take Christie Hall, who worked in my office for 12 weeks on a preceptorship (a placement in a clinical or community setting to teach nursing students the complexities of the practice). She is a fourth-year nursing student at the University of Prince Edward Island. Although Christie comes from a family of many engineers, an experience with the health-care system sparked her interest in nursing at a young age.

“Ever since I was young, I wanted to work in a health setting,” says Christie. “It all started when my youngest sister needed to go to the IWK Health Centre in Nova Scotia for various health problems. I went with her to her appointments and procedures, and it turned out to be an opportunity to have an inside look at health care.”

However, Christie says that if her parents hadn’t been supportive of her choosing her own path, things might have turned out differently.

It’s important for career professionals to understand these influences when working with clients to help them set goals and decide next steps. They can also provide crucial context to help determine if their vision of an industry matches the reality.

Connecting to context

Much of the information jobseekers receive about the labour market is filtered through the parties highlighted in the Guiding Principle. However, this information may be based on anecdotes or reports coming through the news media.

With so many different factors affecting a career decision, one thing career professionals can do to offer some clarity is to share up-to-date, relevant LMI about the fields their clients are considering.

For 20 years, I have owned and managed a publication on Prince Edward Island called The Employment Journey on PEI, providing grassroots labour market information (LMI) to jobseekers, employers, career professionals and parents. The secret to the publication’s success is the same magic that jobseekers need as they explore their options: partnerships.

Career development professionals must pair their own labour market information with the other advice jobseekers are receiving. A chemistry teacher might advise a star student to pursue an academic path in the sciences, for example. Or a parent might suggest their arts undergrad apply for law school. It’s important for career practitioners and their clients to take into consideration the opinions of those who know them best – they might highlight certain attributes the client did not realize they possessed. However, without accurate LMI, this guidance could lead people down unsustainable paths.

“With so many different factors affecting a career decision, one thing career professionals can do to offer some clarity is to share up-to-date, relevant LMI about the fields their clients are considering.”

LMI is all around us, but we must be willing to dig for it and use the people in our life and in our community as a source of this information. Jobseekers also need to decide how this information relates to their career development. One way CDPs can facilitate that is by connecting clients with experiential learning opportunities.

Getting real-world exposure

As noted in the Guiding Principle, workplace managers and the greater community – including businesses and organizations – can also have a strong influence on career decisions. Experiential learning is one of the ways clients get exposed to these influences. This learning-by-doing gives us a closer, more realistic view of work environments and occupations. It might take place during co-op placements, internships, preceptorships, mentorship or volunteering.

As career professionals, it is our role to not only connect clients to these types of experiences but to ensure they’re equipped with the knowledge they need to succeed in them and apply what they learn in their career management.

Christie’s story is a great example of the value of hands-on experiences. To confirm her interest in nursing, she decided to volunteer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. Last year, she started working part-time at a community care home. This fall, the Career Development Association of PEI provided her with a 12-week preceptorship, during which she researched the health implications of a new program on seniors and people with disabilities. These experiences deepened her understanding of the nursing profession.

Career services have an important role to play in connecting students to experiential learning. Recognizing this, the University of Prince Edward Island has launched a new Professionalization Badge for students who want to develop and demonstrate their professional competencies.

“UPEI is helping students develop and communicate their skills,” says Tara Corman, a Student Advisor for the Experiential Education and Work-Integrated Learning office. “To earn their badges, students focus on labour market literacy, communication skills and professional skills.”

This initiative, which embraces the influences managers, labour market information and the broader community can have on students, may serve as a useful model for other post-secondary institutions.

Closing thoughts

With all the different influences jobseekers face, it can be challenging to decide on a suitable path. But by viewing educators, family, peers, managers and the greater community as potential resources, and helping jobseekers make sense of their advice and experiences with LMI, career professionals can help clients take steps toward a successful and rewarding career path.

Gloria Welton owns and manages The Employment Journey on PEI. Prior to her entrepreneurial endeavors, she was a Career Exploration Co-ordinator for Holland College and New Brunswick Community College in Saint John. She started in the career development field in 1986. She is amazed at the many opportunities that have come her way, providing enriched experiences working to help others navigate the world of career planning.

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How automation and data analytics will affect jobs in oil and gasCareering

How automation and data analytics will affect jobs in Canada’s energy industry

Changes in every sub-sector of this industry are creating new or emerging opportunities for jobseekers

By Breanne O’Reilly

Economic ups and downs are not new for Canada’s energy industry. However, the market downturn that started in late 2014 hit the industry particularly hard.[i] In response, the energy industry focused on gaining efficiencies through the implementation of new technologies and a 25% reduction in its workforce.[ii]

The people, occupations and skills that remain to support the exploration, development and production of Canada’s oil and gas resources today have also changed.

PetroLMI – a division of Energy Safety Canada that provides labour market information and trends for Canada’s energy industry – conducted research into how jobs have changed and what skills are going to be required to work in the industry going forward. PetroLMI’s mandate is to collaborate with industry, government and training agencies to support and advance the development of a sustainable, skilled and productive workforce.

In June 2018, PetroLMI published a report funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program, A Workforce in Transition: Oil and Gas Skills of the Future, to share its research findings.

“Our research focused on key trends affecting the oil and gas labour market,” says Carol Howes, Vice President, Communications and PetroLMI for Energy Safety Canada. “An important trend influencing jobs and skills – not unlike other industries – is the increase in automation and more focus on areas such as data analytics.”

A deep dive into automation and data analytics

As with many other industries, the oil and gas industry is implementing automation and using more data analytics to improve its operations and decision-making in order to increase productivity, increase profitability and enhance safety.

“Automation is the use of control systems to operate equipment with minimal or reduced human intervention,” explains Howes. “You’ve heard of autonomous cars, but for the oil and gas industry think driverless heavy haul trucks, minimally manned drill rigs or remote sensors inspecting pipelines.”

Meanwhile, data analytics is the process of examining data sets to make better decisions about the information they contain.

“The oil and gas industry collects a lot of data but historically it hasn’t been used to its full extent. We hear more and more about how big data is being used, and the oil and gas industry is looking at how it can use its data to better inform decisions,” says Howes.

Increased use of automation and data analytics is occurring in every sub-sector of the oil and gas industry and creating new or emerging opportunities for career seekers. Below are some examples.

Exploration and production

Exploration and Production (E&P) is the sub-sector that finds and produces oil and gas. Many E&P companies are large, nationally recognized firms that employ a wide variety of workers, from land negotiators to geologists, technologists to administrative assistants, accountants to engineers, safety managers to environmental specialists.

Automation is largely a way to help workers do their jobs better by eliminating repetitive manual tasks. Companies are requiring more data scientists to apply data analytics to reduce costs. More technologists will also be needed to manage the data.

Oil sands

Oil sands – a mixture of sand, water, clay and bitumen – are produced in northern Alberta. Oil sands deposits are primarily deep in the ground and extracted via Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD). About 20% of the deposits are shallow enough to be extracted through open pit mining. As a result, this sub-sector is heavily reliant on heavy equipment operators in addition to people with expertise in engineering, upgrading oil sands into a light/sweet synthetic crude, safety, and environmental monitoring and reclamation.

Several mining operations are already piloting – or have begun using – driverless automated heavy hauler trucks, a trend that is expected to continue. The rollout of autonomous vehicles could result in job losses among heavy equipment operators across the oil sands mining sector. However, automation creates demand for instrumentation technicians and heavy equipment operators with upgraded training as these autonomous vehicles need to be maintained, repaired and updated on a regular basis.

Oil and gas services

Oil and gas service companies employ the most workers in the oil and gas industry. They provide support services during all phases of exploration and production (including oil sands). Many of the jobs are in remote field locations and use highly advanced technology.

Automation and the use of more data analytics are in early stages of adoption in this sub-sector. As more companies invest in the technology, more work will be accomplished with less equipment and fewer workers. The increase in automation means workers will continue to require mechanical skills to install or operate equipment, but they will also need to understand and operate newer electronic systems. There will be new occupations focused on installing, servicing and updating automated systems on drilling rigs and hydraulic fracturing equipment. Data analytics drive the ability to get more information from the field, and this requires skills in interpreting data and using the information to improve processes.

Pipelines

The pipeline sub-sector of the energy industry transports product to market. Some companies also gather, process and store oil and gas by-products. Jobs in this sub-sector are diverse, from laying pipe to consulting with communities, to working in logistics, pipeline integrity, safety or the environment, to researching in a lab developing new technologies.

Pipeline companies have been early adopters of automation technologies and therefore have already made many adjustments to their workforces. Additional skills in processing and interpreting data will be needed going forward, along with IT and instrumentation technologists to install and maintain the expanding array of remote sensors and other equipment. More data scientists will also be needed to interpret the ever-expanding amount of data available, to improve equipment maintenance and operations.

Future forward

For more information, you can read the report on careersinoilandgas.com. The website, Careers in Oil + Gas, also houses a Career Explorer online tool that allows users to not only search and compare more than 100 occupations in the oil and gas industry, but to view and apply directly to relevant job postings on the Government of Canada’s Job Bank website.

AUTHOR BIO

As PetroLMI’s Outreach and Communications Advisor, Breanne O’Reilly is responsible for communicating and distributing labour market data, trends and insights. As well, O’Reilly disseminates PetroLMI’s occupational tools and resources for workforce and career planning and manages the Careers in Oil + Gas website.

References

[i] Labour Market Outlook 2017 to 2021 for Canada’s Oil and Gas Industry. (PetroLMI)

[ii] Labour Productivity in Canada’s Oil and Gas Industry: A Discussion of Historical Trends and Future Implications. (PetroLMI)

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Careering

Fostering career agility in STEM

These four fundamentals are key to success in a rapidly changing field

By Caroline Burgess

The number of disciplines and sub-disciplines in STEM already seems overwhelming and new fields continue to emerge. How can career development practitioners help their STEM clients navigate a diverse and increasingly digital economy? The answer, in my mind, is to focus on the fundamentals.

During 14 years as a mentor or coach to emerging adults pursuing careers in STEM, it has been my observation that career success in STEM depends on having the following:

  1. A growth mindset
  2. Valuable transferable skills
  3. Relevant work experience
  4. An internal locus of control
Developing a growth mindset

 Psychologist Carol Dweck has defined a growth mindset as a belief that your abilities can be developed through hard work and a willingness to iterate in the face of failure – to employ other strategies and try again1. A growth mindset is critical in STEM because of the need to upgrade or acquire new knowledge and skills to keep pace with advances in technology and changes in the economy.

The exercise outlined below is one I use with every client to encourage a growth mindset. It is based on the concept of “flow,” defined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly as an activity in which your whole being is involved and you are using your skills to the utmost2.

Write a brief description of three peak experiences that can be taken from any combination of school, work or extra-curricular activities. Each experience must have the following elements:

  •  It called on all of your skill or expertise (in a particular area)
  •  You felt challenged but not overwhelmed
  •  You were so engaged that you were unaware of the passage of time
  •  You felt a sense of power immediately after the experience, aware that you had met the challenge and, perhaps, even exceeded your own expectations

By tapping into a time when they have successfully tackled a challenge, clients seem more receptive to challenging themselves in other ways – for example, by taking a challenging course, considering a difficult degree program or applying for a job they are not completely qualified for.

Identifying key transferable skills

Valuable transferable skills are essential to agility in a dynamic economy because, unlike specialized knowledge, they can be applied in a variety of sectors; they are also the key to jumping on emerging fields. The most valuable transferable skills in STEM are mathematics, computer science and physics. These also take the most time and practice to master.

My recommendation to clients is to start acquiring valuable transferable skills early and to keep at it. I encourage clients in high school to take as many math and computer science courses as they can, and to take Grade 11 and Grade 12 Physics even if they are not required for admission to the STEM programs they are considering3. I encourage university clients in STEM to take a minimum of one full year of physics as well as advanced math and computer science courses, even if it means extending the length of their degrees; a BSc in biology with a minor in mathematics or computer science is a much more powerful degree than one without.

Tapping into the power of relevant experience

I encourage all of my clients, including those considering graduate or professional school, to acquire a minimum of 16 months of relevant work experience before they complete their undergraduate degrees in STEM – either through a co-operative program, or by incorporating a professional year between their third and fourth academic years4.

Students who have acquired relevant work experience, including industry experience, before they graduate, stand out from their peers with respect to: 1) the valuable transferable skills they have acquired and practiced, including technical and soft skills and 2) the size and diversity of their networks. In addition, these students also develop confidence from tackling challenging problems in work environments that encourage risk-taking and embrace the process of iteration.

Keeping clients in the driver’s seat

I strongly believe in the capability and resourcefulness of my clients, and my interactions with them are designed to foster an internal locus of control. I give clients homework to complete before each meeting to emphasize that they are the ones driving the career development process. To encourage my clients to be intentional, I ask each of them to complete the following exercise:

Construct a personal table of values with four columns and as many rows as you need. Label the columns “Value,” “Value Definition,” “Importance” (score from 1 to 5) and “How Presently Lived” (score from 1 to 5). In this context, a value is defined as something that you want to experience or “live” to some degree.

I let them know that their values are likely to change as they progress in their careers and their lives, but that it is important to understand why, at this stage, they might choose one option over another.

I also ask clients considering post-secondary options to construct a pie chart that gives a percentage weight to each of the following: “opportunity to acquire valuable transferable skills,” “opportunity for relevant work experience” and some combination of their values (adding to 100%). I then ask them to score and rank each of their options accordingly. Again, this exercise reinforces intentionality and an internal locus of control.

Success in STEM demands a commitment to life-long learning. It doesn’t stop at graduation. I often use the visual of a climbing wall to encourage clients in transition to be intentional about next steps. Where do they want to end up? What is attainable from where they are now? For example, a client with a degree in physics is a good candidate for a transition to data science, but an intermediate step might be online courses in Python coding and machine learning. By encouraging a growth mindset and fostering an internal locus of control, I hope to impart on my clients a sense that their future is in their own hands and that it looks very bright.

Caroline Burgess, CCDP, has spent her entire career in STEM. Trained as an engineer, educator and career consultant, she has experience and contacts in industry, research and government. She has been a mentor or coach to emerging adults pursuing careers in STEM since 2004 and can be reached through her website at CarolineBurgess.ca.

References

  1. The Atlantic, “How Praise Became a Consolation Prize: Helping children confront challenges requires a more nuanced understanding of the “growth mindset”.” (Dec 16, 2016)  https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/12/how-praise-became-a-consolation-prize/510845/ 
  2. Csikszentmihaly, Mihaly (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper Collins.
  3. Burgess, Caroline. “To Acquire Valuable Transferable Skills in High School, Avoid the Bin Mentality”. http://www.carolineburgess.ca/to-acquire-valuable-transferable-skills-in-high-school-avoid-the-bin-mentality/
  4. Burgess, Caroline. “Include Relevant Work Experience in Any STEM Education Plan”. http://www.carolineburgess.ca/include-relevant-work-experience-in-any-stem-education-plan/
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Is a science degree a guarantee of employment?Careering

Is a science degree a guarantee of employment?

It is widely assumed that sciences offer students a ‘safe’ future. While there are many opportunities available, expectations do not always align with reality

By Lucie Demers

They are passionate about science: they read, examine, experiment. They are high achievers in mathematics, chemistry and physics. They dream of contributing to the improvement of health and the quality of life on a global scale. They are hopeful for the future: careers in science offer good, stable, well-paid jobs, don’t they?

Although this field offers many opportunities, the job market is not always favourable to graduates. The unemployment rate for graduate students is amongst the highest[i], compared to applied sciences, humanities, letters, etc. So why is it still so widespread that sciences offer a ​​”safe” future?

There are important elements to know about careers in science and research. The goal here is not to praise nor to criticize taking up a career in science, it is to present the essential information to better accompany teens and young adults who are considering a career in the scientific field.

Employment statistics of recent graduates

As in any career-orientation process, employment statistics indicate the ease (or not) that graduates of a specific field have entering into the job market.

In the field of science, data from statistical surveys are often very encouraging. On the other hand, some must be interpreted with caution.

  • In disciplines with few students (e.g. physics), the very small sample size may lead us to question the reliability of the unemployment rate. [ii]
  • 73% of civil engineering graduates with a bachelor’s degree have a full-time job related to their training, compared with 5.3% in physics.[iii]
  • A question must be pondered: have people pursuing a master’s degree pursued their studies by choice or for lack of finding a job?
  • There may even be different realities within the same discipline (e.g. chemistry) depending on the specialization chosen by the graduates (e.g. organic chemistry, materials chemistry or theoretical chemistry). Why? Statistics on training programs only show the average of their category. The difficulties of professional integration encountered by graduates of certain specializations are thus camouflaged.
  • Employee compensation, regional employment opportunities and changes in the employment market may also explain why some science graduates (in physics, chemistry and math) have a harder time entering the job market than science graduates in engineering or applied sciences[iv].
Evaluating employment data with a critical eye

Employment statistics are a treasure chest of valuable data, but are insufficient in making an informed career choice. It is therefore essential to consult other sources, but it is important to be aware of their limitations and know how to validate the information they provide.

First, the data provided by some institutions may seem reliable, but their interests must be weighed. Each student is a potential source of income for universities, so some may present their data to their best advantage to attract a maximum number of students. The same is true for professional groups, which must support their industry by meeting companies’ ever-growing workforce needs. Therefore, one should not hesitate to cross-check the employment statistics conveyed in certain advertisements.

Newspaper articles are another source of potential information, but there is also a need to be critical of them. For example, one should be wary of articles that cite only one source of information, only quote industry representatives or use statistics in isolation.

In some government information sources, which are otherwise quite neutral, the employment outlook indicators are rather vague (e.g. good, acceptable, weak). Other sources are very useful for taking the pulse of a field (e.g. job offers, student associations, recent graduates, mentors, etc.), but the information collected is subjective; it may not be representative of the entire field.

Overall, each source of information has its advantages and disadvantages. That’s why guidance counsellors and career professionals are the best sources to help jobseekers make an informed decision.

3 things to know about graduate studies and research

Have a client who wants to do a master’s degree or a doctorate in science, or who is interested in research? Here are some things you need to know.

  • In some areas, a graduate degree is not conditional to employment. For the employer, a doctorate is not a guarantee of resourcefulness or ability to innovate.
  • Research is an extremely competitive field, with a global span. Which researcher will publish his or her results first? Many scientists work evenings and weekends to stay in the race.
  • Researchers are accountable to the organization that hires them or funds their research. Their position may be up for grabs if they do not reach the expected goals.
Becoming a scientific researcher

Only 20% of doctoral graduates are employed as full-time university professors.[v],[vi] Students who are interested in this type of career should prepare by:

  • Reading scientific articles
  • Acquiring early experience such as internships
  • Differentiating themselves from other students in their class (by having good academic results, which are the main selection criterion for the award of summer research internships and master’s scholarships)
  • Approaching researchers they wish to have as supervisors early on
  • Doing a post-doctoral internship
  • Targeting the best laboratories, which welcome the most eminent researchers and have more resources to finance large projects
  • Applying to scholarships for research funding

In the end, the best choices are those made wisely, by knowing and acknowledging the facts, and respecting personal values ​​and interests.

This article was inspired by the book Les carrières en sciences – Astuces pour éviter les pièges (2017), by Dr Maxime Bergeron.

Lucie Demers is guidance counsellor and editorial director at Septembre éditeur, a publishing house specialized in career guidance content. She has contributed to the development of several books and digital tools over the last seven years.

References

[i] Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur (MEES). «Enquêtes Relance», MEES, http://www.education.gouv.qc.ca/references/indicateurs-et-statistiques/enseignement-superieur/enquetes-relance/

[ii] Idem.

[iii] Idem.

[iv] Paquin, G. (2012). «Inscriptions universitaires: le génie minier trouve le bon filon», La Presse, http://affaires.lapresse.ca/portfolio/ ingenieurs/201211/08/01-4591617-inscriptions-universitaires-le-genie- minier-trouve-le-bon-filon.php

[v] Braün, D. (2014). «Faire de longues études pour mal gagner sa vie», Radio-Canada, https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/656835/postdoctorants-canadiens-difficultes

[vi] Munro, D. (2015). «Where Are Canada’s PhDs Employed?», Le Conference Board du Canada, https://www.conferenceboard.ca/press/newsrelease/15-11-24/Where_Are_Canada_s_PhDs_employed.aspx

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