Cannexus 2009 – A Huge Success!

CANNEXUS 2009, hosted in Toronto on April 6 – 8 was an overwhelming success! Thank you to all the delegates, session presenters and exhibitors for making this, our 3rd national conference, a success. Thanks also to our Sponsors as well as the many Partnering and Supporting Organizations.


The New Abnormal: Revisiting Workplace Presenteeism During COVID-19

By Tade Owodunni (Cannexus23 GSEP Award Winner)


As the second quarter of 2022 beckons, things appear to be fast returning to normal and everyone is gradually settling back into work. Organizations in Canada are fast embracing the new normal and adopting more flexible workplace practices. In the new normal, employee health concerns have remained a major subject at management meetings.  

Yet, things aren’t quite so normal. The now not-so-new sheriff in town is COVID-19, which has taken the world by storm and surpassed other health conditions that have plagued the work environment and workplace performance over the years, such as stress, heart-related ailments, sleep problems, allergies, body pain and depressive mood (McGregor et al., 2018). COVID quickly gained top-of-mind status with most employees who, by the nature of their employment, must report physically to work.  

Now into its third year as a significant health concern, COVID-19 has affected the world of work perhaps more than any other development in the modern era (Pieh et al., 2021). Its highly contagious nature, along with its tendency to periodically mutate into even more contagious variants, continually stretches the limits of modern medicine as the world struggles to find a solution. The ceaseless pressure to maintain productivity and profitability as the world begins to embrace the new normal presents new challenges with consequences that extend beyond the workplace.  

Workplace absenteeism and presenteeism  

The life of the modern-day business manager is not an easy one. They have a lot to contend with. While absenteeism remains a common disruptor to workplace activity, its parallel component, presenteeism, reintroduces itself as a clear and present danger for all organizations – particularly in the wake of COVID-19. Whilst absenteeism refers to a worker’s absence from work due to illness (either personally or as a caretaker for a sick dependent), presenteeism describes a situation where a legitimately ill person continues to physically come to the workplace (Howard et al., 2012). Where such an illness is as infectious as COVID-19, the consequences are not only monumental but extend beyond the workplace and assume a societal challenge of paradigmatic proportion.  

Presenteeism during COVID-19 

The costs and risk factors associated with workers coming into work while sick with COVID-19 are an enormous and relatively novel situation that organizations are forced to cope with. Where health conditions are non-contagious, sickness presenteeism has been observed to have some benefits to ailing staff, as the work environment offers structure, builds self-esteem and provides opportunities for social engagement and support (Kinman & Grant, 2022). Nonetheless, there is evidence that suggests that working while ill can delay, rather than expedite, the process of recovery, thus increasing the risk of future health problems and sickness absence (Skagen, 2016; Kinman & Grant, 2022).  

Inherent factors that encourage presenteeism  

Unfortunately, the pressures associated with having to turn up at work, especially in non-remote, in-person work sectors like retail, construction and hospitality, compel workers to take difficult decisions and go to work despite their ill health. They may also face the risk of lost hourly wages or even unemployment if they stay home sick.  

“Unhealthy” workplace culture can also be a factor. Employees may be gaslighted into self-doubt and question the seriousness of their own conditions because they are reluctant to let down their managers and colleagues. This may be a particular concern in situations where staffing levels are low or organizations are faced with other challenges that threaten their survival (Kinman, 2019). Workers may fear that their managers and colleagues do not consider them sufficiently unwell to necessitate time off from work if their symptoms are mild. This further constrains workers to put on a brave face and face the challenge of working during illness, unwittingly spreading it to other colleagues. The unfortunate long-term consequences, beyond prevailing a contagion that could otherwise be averted, includes reports that some people have continued to experience symptoms such as chronic fatigue, weakness, low productivity and cognitive difficulties several months later (Wise, 2020).  

Summary, reflections and further research direction 

The simple solution to stalling workplace presenteeism would be to encourage sick employees to stay at home and call in sick when they observe that they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, however mild (Pieh et al., 2021). Unfortunately, in the real world, things are never quite so simple. Therefore, sacrifices have to be made by both employees, who should conscientiously concede to reduced income during their periods of ill health, and managers, who should consider introducing half-pay conditions for workers performing in-person roles whose absenteeism is demonstrably a result of COVID-19-related illness. This demonstrates a sense of fairness to the affected employee and is a gesture of encouragement to avert the spread of the disease.  

Workplace presenteeism has a negative impact on employees, their co-workers and the community. It can exacerbate health problems and increase long-term sickness absence for the worker, increase accidents and injuries for the worker and co-workers, and transmit contagious illness to the community in which the workplace is embedded (Kinman, 2019) 

Tade Owodunni is a doctoral student in Business Administration at Royal Roads University, a Nigerian-trained lawyer, corporate governance practitioner and certified compliance and ethics professional. He emerged as the best graduating student (Nigeria) from his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program at Business School Netherlands in 2018. Tade’s research interests include corporate governance themes, small business growth and career development subjects.  


Howard, K. J., Howard, J. T., & Smyth, A. F. (2012). The problem of absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace. In Handbook of occupational health and wellness (pp. 151-179). Springer, Boston, MA. 

Kinman, G. (2019). Sickness presenteeism at work: prevalence, costs and management. 

Kinman, G., & Grant, C. (2021). Presenteeism during the COVID-19 pandemic: risks and solutions. Occupational medicine, 71(6-7), 243-244.  

McGregor, A., Ashbury, F., Caputi, P., & Iverson, D. (2018). A preliminary investigation of health and work-environment factors on presenteeism in the workplace. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine, 60(12), e671-e678. 

Pieh, C., Budimir, S., Delgadillo, J., Barkham, M., Fontaine, J. R., & Probst, T. (2021). Mental health during COVID-19 lockdown in the United Kingdom. Psychosomatic medicine, 83(4), 328-337.  

Skagen, K., & Collins, A. M. (2016). The consequences of sickness presenteeism on health and wellbeing over time: a systematic review. Social Science & Medicine, 161, 169-177. 

Wise, J. (2020). Long covid: doctors call for research and surveillance to capture disease. bmj, 370. 


Legacy Learning and Career Development: Higher-education Students as Agents of Change

By Hannah Celinski (Cannexus23 GSEP Award Winner)

Students are faced with a variety of daunting tasks. They navigate institutional expectations, manage time for their studies and homework, often while working multiple jobs and contributing to a household by way of care for others, duties around the house and balancing their budget. Further, they are subjected to a changing world full of environmental, economic and societal uncertainty. The “evolving future” has become as unpredictable as it is unstable, and within these challenges lies the importance of fostering “the lifelong process of managing learning, work, leisure, and transitions” (CERIC, n.d.).  

I live in Abbotsford, BC. In 2021, we navigated the global pandemic, raging forest fires, a heat dome and a devastating flood. Our community remains shaken to the core by these unprecedented challenges. This is one town, in one province of our massive country. Our challenges are unique to Abbotsford, but the outlook is equally complex across Canada. During such challenging times, the importance of career influencers – “professionals [who] have the potential to influence students in their careers through their role and everyday practice” – is undeniable (Ho, 2019, p. 137). We need students to become agents of change, and career development is one path to hope for our people, communities and world. 

My PhD research focuses on the role of legacy in pedagogy (Legacy Learning). I examine Plato’s theory of the loadstone (attracting students to you like a magnet and infusing them with your knowledge and ability to attract further students); Maxine Greene’s consideration of learning through sedimentation (information builds up as sediment and is passed along to the next person in a synthesized form) (Greene, 2013); the role of mirror neurons in learning (you neurologically “practise” what you observe and the effect can be strengthened through relationship) (Zardi et al., 2021); and Indigenous ways of teaching and learning, amplifying the work of Sarah Davidson and Robert Davidson in their book, Potlatch as Pedagogy: Learning Through Ceremony (2018). Davidson & Davidson point to the importance of process, with failure as an option and celebration of the journey as the focus as opposed to assessment. 

I propose that legacy is a pathway to exponential growth, but our students are currently drowning in a tidal wave of information that flows over them through technology (Chan et al., 2015). Students are squeezed between the potency of exponentially growing knowledge they receive verbally, physically and affectively through their instructors, and the flow of information coming at them from their devices. To combat this evolving issue and turn the focus on successfully developing and producing agents of change, I propose including mindfulness and reflective practices as part of the higher-education curriculum in tandem with David Boud’s “feedback loop” – an ongoing conversation between the instructor and student to promote learning (Carless & Boud, 2018, p. 1318). 

So, how does career development fit into this conversation? By framing curriculum within a Legacy Learning context, the evolution of a career is framed as a process achieved by considering students’ past experiences in relation to their current place in the process, and how that feeds their future evolution. Each journey is unique. There is no longer an arrival employment opportunity. Rather, future stops encourage community involvement by furthering equity, diversity and inclusion as a vital aspect of society’s future; averting ecological impacts of current and past practices; and actively engaging with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Each student has an important part to play in our future, but they will need our stories, support, guidance and encouragement to get there. As I said earlier, we need agents of change, and to get there, students will need everything we have to offer. 

Hannah Celinski is an Assistant Professor and Department Head of Arts Studies at The University of the Fraser Valley. She began as a music theatre performer in Toronto, eventually opening Aerial Dance & Acro Academy in Abbotsford before returning to academia. Celinski is currently pursuing a PhD in Educational Theory and Practice: Curriculum and Pedagogy at Simon Fraser University. She has a Master of Arts in English from Simon Fraser University, a Bachelor of Arts in English (Honours) from The University of the Fraser Valley and a Music Theatre Performance Diploma from Sheridan College. 


Boud, D. & Carless, D. (2018). The development of student feedback literacy: enabling uptake of feedback. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. 43(8), 1315-1325.  

Chan, N., Walker, C., & Gleaves, A. (2015). An exploration of students’ lived experiences of using smartphones in diverse learning contexts using a hermeneutic phenomenological approach. Computers and Education, 82, 96-106. 

CERIC. (n.d.). Glossary of career development. 

Davidson, S. & Davidson, R. (2018). Potlatch as pedagogy: Learning through ceremony. Portage & Main.  

Greene, M. (2013). Curriculum and consciousness. In David Flinders (Ed.), Curriculum studies reader (2nd ed., pp. 134-147). Taylor and Francis.   

Hagendoorn, I. (2004). Some speculative hypotheses about the nature and perception of dance and choreography. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11(3-4), 79-110. 

Ho, C. (2019). Professionals in post-secondary education: Conceptions of career influence. (Doctoral dissertation, Simon Fraser University, Surrey, Canada). Retrieved from 

Richter, D. (2007). The critical tradition: Classic texts and contemporary trends. Bedford/St. Martin’s. 

Zardi, Andrea, Carlotti, Edoardo Giovanni, Pontremoli, Alessandro, & Morese, Rosalba. (2021). Dancing in Your Head: An Interdisciplinary Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 649121–649121. 


Winning in an Open Relationship: A Partnership in Higher Education with Industry

By Sonja Johnston

The “skills gap” (e.g., Lapointe & Turner, 2020; Mishra et al., 2019; RBC, 2019), or the misalignment of graduate capability with employer expectations, comes back to higher education to renovate education outcomes to align to industry desires for skill competency. However, this moving target of desirable skills in a tumultuous landscape for employment makes hitting the target nearly impossible. The literature in this space has been growing for decades, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought the challenge centre stage, as economic recovery will be directly affected by the ability of the workforce to adapt and innovate. 

Solutions to close the gap have focused on supporting students to acquire skills as directed by industry insights and hiring needs. What if the narrative was reframed to explore collaborative and generative learning experiences that are co-created by industry partners and soon-to-be graduates?  

One such example features the open learning partnership with e-commerce software leader Shopify (Shopify Open Learning, n.d.). This multinational, publicly traded, Canadian firm “is a leading provider of essential internet infrastructure for commerce, offering trusted tools to start, grow, market, and manage a retail business of any size” (Shopify Company Info, n.d.). Shopify’s open learning partnership allows higher-education programs to implement authentic learning experiences in curriculum by allowing students to create fully functional Shopify stores. Approved courses can utilize access to rewarding Shopify-based activities and students can earn digital badges to recognize their achievements in addition to the course credit.  

During the pandemic, businesses were affected by health restrictions and forced to consider how they engaged with customers. As the Shopify platform evolved, students were able to learn about business demands and pivots in real time. Graduates enter the workplace with an authentic and experiential view of store design and strategic customer experience considerations. Shopify gains client insights from the students and an educated base of graduates ready to hit the ground running as entrepreneurs and employees. 

This open (platform) relationship is an exchange of insight, expertise, current operations, feedback and authentic learning with no financial obligation to higher education. This iterative feedback loop functions differently than industry just providing insights on skills that are desired. The use of platforms provides authentic and experiential learning with the value-added opportunity for micro credentialling (i.e. digital badges). The win for all involved stakeholders is visible, and can pivot as the environment requires. The invitation for industry leaders to consider open relationships with higher education is on the table for the taking! 

Disclaimer: I am a graduate student in educational research examining models for graduate workplace readiness. As a post-secondary instructor, I use this open platform in an entrepreneurship course. I am not compensated in any way from Shopify. I wish to acknowledge credit for the pioneering of this Open Learning Platform to Pam Bovey Armstrong and Polina Buchan at St. Lawrence College in Ontario, Canada.

Sonja Johnston is a collaborative, multidisciplinary scholar with nearly a decade of experience in curriculum design and instruction in multiple post-secondary institutions. She is currently a PhD student in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary, specializing in Learning Sciences. Sonja’s research focuses on higher education and workplace readiness. 


Lapointe, S., & Turner, J. (2020). Leveraging the skills of social sciences and humanities graduates. Skills Next 2020. 

Mishra, P. T., Mishra, A., & Chowhan, S. S. (2019). Role of higher education in bridging the skill gap. Universal Journal of Management, 7(4), 134-139. 

RBC. (2019, May). Bridging the gap: What Canadians told us about the skills revolution [report]. RBC Thought Leadership. 

Shopify. (n.d.). Company Info. 

Shopify. (n.d.). Open Learning. 


Do Values Matter? Exploring the factors that encourage employees to commit to physical activity during the COVID-19 in relation to their work performance

By Ahmed Mohamed

Government legislation enacted during COVID-19 constricted business to work remotely and students to learn from home. Such widespread restrictions on human activity stimulated an increase in scholarly research in the social sciences. Research productivity increased by 35% in the United States within 10 weeks of the start of COVID-19 lockdowns (Cui, Ding, and Zhu, 2020).  

Still, little is being done to understand why regular engagement in physical activities declined for some and continued for others. We ground this qualitative research on conservation of resources theory (especially personal resources: cognitive, physical and affective) to determine whether previous experience in teleworking and personal and organizational resources might have motivated people to continue to engage in physical activities while working from home. Indeed, the unprecedented conditions of COVID-19 require people to utilize their personal resources as efficiently as possible to satisfy job and physical and mental health demands. Our research answer two questions. 

First, does physical activity pre-pandemic provide non-experienced telecommuters with more resources and better work performance during pandemic? The second question asks, what specific factors motivate them to engage in physical activities during the pandemic? We interviewed 20 faculty and staff at York University in Canada. Participants who perceived physical activity as an intrinsic value before the pandemic practised physical activity during the pandemic, maintained their personal resources and coped with the pandemic demands. However, participants who are intrinsically motivated to practice physical activity, because of its known benefits from pre-pandemic experience, were less engaged in physical activities and lost personal resources due to family and work demands experienced during the pandemic.  

We conclude that physical activity is indirectly predicting work performance through the mediation role of personal resources. We recommend extending this study to cover gender, financial stability and culture in two contrasting contexts, during and post-COVID-19. 

Ahmed Mohamedis a Queen’s University business graduate, holding a Master of International Business degree with over 10 years of international experience in the business industry. Throughout his career, Mohamed helped multinational corporations in client servicing, sales, marketing and human resources. Mohamed is passionate about academic research, assisting professors and the research community in various research areas related to human resource management. Additionally, presenting research topics at different conferences and finding solutions to industry challenges is where Mohamed sees himself growing and developing. Currently, Mohamed is a third-year PhD candidate in Human Resource Management at York University. 


Cui, R., Ding, H., & Zhu, F. (2020). Gender inequality in research productivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. arXiv preprint arXiv:2006.10194. 

Image of Careering magazine cover on yellow background with text: Spring-Summer 2022 The Great Careers Disconnect2022

Spring-Summer issue of Careering dives into ‘The Great Careers Disconnect’

For “The Great Careers Disconnect” issue of Careering magazine, we asked people working in all areas of career development to reflect on the question: What gaps are you seeing in career services, career education, the labour market and the workplace – and what are your ideas to address them?

Articles include:

Careering magazine is Canada’s Magazine for Career Development Professionals and is the official publication of CERIC. It is published three times a year and includes select content in French. Subscribe to receive your free copy. You can also access past issues for free online.  

The theme for the Fall 2022 issue of Careering magazine will be released soon. Check back on for the call for article proposals or sign up for CERIC’s free CareerWise Weekly newsletter to get the latest updates.

Heat sparks fly out in construction site due to two men using grinding machineCareering

The skills-gap paradox

Canada’s small and medium-sized enterprises say they’re facing a skills gap. So, why aren’t they investing in talent? 

Malika Asthana

Author headshotSkills don’t last forever, but many of our current models for skills development assume they do. As the need for skills changes alongside rapid technological advancements and demographic shifts, employers will need to consider how to keep their employees’ skills fresh – and our learning systems must adapt as well. This is particularly true when it comes to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that support millions of jobs. But can they do it?

To better understand the dynamics facing SMEs to support employees in lifelong learning, D2L commissioned Innovative Research Group to conduct two surveys of employers and employees. Focused on SMEs with 20 to 499 employees, this new research provides a snapshot of the current state of lifelong learning in small and medium-sized businesses in both the United States and Canada and reveals concerning gaps for employers and policymakers alike to address.

What’s happening with SMEs

D2L research shows that Canadian SMEs are facing a worrisome situation as they look at their future talent needs compared with their current talent realities. Only 21% of decision-makers at Canadian SMEs report feeling very confident that they will have the skills and talent they need to grow their organizations over the next three years, compared with 47% of those in the US who say the same. Most are concerned with recruiting and retaining skilled talent, with a sizable percentage of decision makers indicating this as the most important human resources challenge they face, ahead of concerns around compensation, adaptation to technology or workplace diversity.

These findings, explored in more depth in D2L’s latest whitepaper, Enabling Upskilling at Scale: Adapting to Meet the Needs of the Working Learner, echo other recent survey results about a noticeable skills shortage. For instance, eight in 10 (81%) of Canadian executives polled by CERIC in late 2021 said finding skilled workers is difficult – and more than half of them attributed that challenge to finding people with the right skillset.

D2L’s research findings reinforce that there is a fundamental misalignment between what SME employers need (that is, skilled employees) and what they get with their current training and development strategies.

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Canada’s essential yet overqualified immigrant workforce
Values are the antidote to the ‘Great Careers Disconnect’
How to lead the career development revolution

The disconnect

With smaller budgets, many SMEs struggle to create and deliver robust, broad training programs in-house. An alternative is to offer supports for their employees to take off-the-job training, but upskilling is not happening on the scale it needs to be.

Only 34% of SMEs in both Canada and the US provide financial support or time off for training delivered by external providers. Among the employers that offer it, Canadian SME training budgets are notably smaller compared to their US counterparts. Canadian SMEs are also less likely to hire internally for new positions. When they were asked to pinpoint the biggest barriers preventing them from investing further, SME decision makers said that internal training or on-the-job learning was sufficient.

“… there is a fundamental misalignment between what SME employers need (that is, skilled employees) and what they get with their current training and development strategies.”

On the other side of this equation are employees, who broadly said they are eager to keep learning. D2L’s research found that 72% of employees are interested in professional development outside of work. They said they see these opportunities primarily as means to build skills, rather than as a way to increase their salary or to qualify for a job promotion. But access clearly remains a problem. Over half of Canadian employees of SMEs surveyed said they hadn’t taken on any professional development over the past 12 months. The biggest barrier – reported by 43% of Canadian employees – was the financial cost of training.

Employers need options to help their employees upskill and grow. Employees want to continue their professional development and learn new things. Cost is a barrier for both. What options does this leave SMEs for facilitating professional development that is both an employer and employee need?

The opportunity

Continued upskilling for employees, which helps enable better recruitment and retention in SMEs, is a shared responsibility between employers, government and higher-education institutions in North America.

Employers must first recognize the problem at hand and urgently consider how they will invest in skills development for their workforce. With the speed of technological change, employers can’t reasonably predict all the skills they will need years in advance. That’s why they need to build processes that will support continuous upskilling and create pipelines of talent for jobs that may not exist. Providing financial support and time off for employees is an essential first-order investment for companies of all sizes. Technology can be used to provide quick and easy access to learning that aligns with their company or industry needs, leveraging higher education and industry associations to provide training.

Career development practitioners can also play a key role by serving as intermediaries between students or jobseekers and employers. Those liaising with employers can advocate for the development of career management supports for employees, as well as partner with businesses to provide resources or training for staff career development. Career practitioners working in post-secondary can also encourage employers to engage with students by offering value-added opportunities such as career education programming.

For their part, higher-education institutions must re-think how they define a learner to better serve working adults in need of high-quality skills training on flexible and more personalized schedules and timelines. They must think beyond credit hours and imagine new programs and partnerships with employers, associations and unions to help make continuous upskilling more accessible.

Clearly, there is also a role for government, which must reconsider its funding offerings for SMEs to increase general awareness and eligibility for training and skills development. Government must also uplift the voices of SMEs in consultations and consider taxable incentives to encourage employers to invest in training funds. Finally, government can also play a critical unifying role, bringing stakeholders together and helping shape a shared vision for workforce development that ensures nobody gets left behind.

Malika Asthana is the Manager for Strategy and Public Affairs for D2L. Asthana leads the development of strategic thought leadership, policy submissions and proposals to support, expand and improve learning opportunities for all students in Canada. She is passionate about making connections across disciplines and enjoys research at the intersection of policy spaces – from education and employment, to skills and economic development.

Closeup of Canadian immigration formCareering

Canada’s essential yet overqualified immigrant workforce

Addressing the entrenched issues around newcomer employment in Canada will require systems-level change

Yilmaz E. Dinc

author headshotOverqualification is a common and well-known problem for the immigrant workforce. But the pandemic shed a different light on the issue: the products and services that we consider essential are also provided by immigrants whose talent potential is underutilized.

Immigrant underemployment in Canada is what we at the Conference Board call a “wicked problem” that has been around for decades. Many newcomers in Canada, particularly those without Canadian qualifications and work experience, and those with a background in a regulated profession, face considerable difficulty in finding jobs that match their skillset. They often have to take low-income jobs that don’t use their full skillset just to make ends meet.

Underemployment affects immigrant careers even in the longer term – and nowhere is this effect more pronounced than in essential jobs. A study that we conducted at the Conference Board of Canada last year showed that immigrants are a critical part of the essential workforce, constituting close to one-third of all workers in sectors such as food manufacturing, truck transportation, and nursing and residential care. However, many are overqualified for their roles. For instance, 28% of newcomer transport truck drivers have bachelor’s degrees even though their job doesn’t require one, compared to only 1.6% of their counterparts born in Canada.

What this data tells us is that even though many immigrants are performing essential work, these are often not the right opportunities that build on their talent potential. This in turn limits their earnings and negatively affects their career trajectories. This impact is usually much more pronounced for racialized newcomer workers and newcomer women.

“Underemployment affects immigrant careers even in the longer term – and nowhere is this effect more pronounced than in essential jobs.” 

This phenomenon isn’t only applicable to newcomers. Among people on temporary visas, more than 20% of fish and seafood plant workers and over 30% of labourers in food and beverage processing are overqualified. As Canada welcomes more people with previous experience in Canada and grows its immigration targets, the overqualification question becomes even more prevalent.

The qualifications disconnect is not just an individual-level problem. Canada loses up to $50 billion every year due to employment and earning gaps between immigrants – including essential workers – and people born in Canada.

At the same time, this creates challenges for employers, who continue to report difficulties in talent attraction and retention. Employees who feel overqualified for their role will likely experience lower job satisfaction and be more likely to look for other jobs. It’s worth considering to what extent skills shortages would be addressed by better matching immigrant competencies with labour demand.

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Supporting international students’ career development from a strengths-based lens
The future of work for the Black community
The skills-gap paradox

Moving the needle on credential recognition

There are multiple drivers of why overqualification happens. Despite decades of consultations and efforts to improve credential recognition, it remains a complex, costly and time-consuming process for many regulated occupations. However, there are also promising steps being taken in the right direction.

The Government of Ontario has recently removed the Canadian experience barrier for many professions, including electricians, engineers and plumbers. This move will surely help newcomers with a background in these occupations find better-quality job opportunities. Other provinces will likely take note of the results and mirror a similar approach.

However, Ontario’s recent changes did not include health-care occupations, which remain the thorniest part of the problem. Our report found that nurse aides, orderlies and patient support associates were the occupations with the highest degree of overqualification (surpassing farm workers, truck drivers and food manufacturing workers).

The data indicates that licensing internationally educated health professionals should be a government priority at both federal and provincial levels. A March 2022 Toronto Metropolitan University policy brief, for instance, highlighted the need for a “Health Human Resources Strategy” in Ontario that would address the gaps in licensing, seeking alternatives to Canadian experience as well as boosting access to permanent residency.

Tackling bias

The problem, however, does not end with formal credential recognition. Some occupations require further practice but have additional limitations, such as fewer residency spots for internationally educated doctors.

Bias is also an issue. Some employers discount the value of work experience and qualifications obtained abroad. Discrimination against international degrees and experiences, combined with race, gender and ethnicity biases, push many newcomers into difficult essential jobs that people born in Canada don’t want to work in. Groups such as racialized newcomer women end up facing the most complex challenges when it comes to securing quality employment.

The way forward

So, how do we address the overqualification challenge? It won’t be solved overnight, as systems-level change involving multiple actors will take time. In addition to government actions to expedite licensing, employers need to build more inclusive workplaces that help immigrants find jobs matching their skill level and address bias and discrimination.

Employers will also need support from the government, non-profit and settlement sectors to assess foreign work experience and qualifications more effectively and objectively. This is particularly true for smaller businesses.

For many immigrants already underemployed within the system, forming and strengthening upward and cross-sector mobility is critical. That needs to include identifying and building on their transferable skills to help them transition into more skills-commensurate opportunities. Tools such as OpportuNext could help chart those pathways. Reskilling and upskilling might be needed for immigrants whose skillsets are no longer up to date.

As the government and employers work on addressing systems-level challenges, it will be up to settlement and career development practitioners to support overqualified immigrants in pursuing more fitting employment opportunities. This could include identifying sectors with growing employment prospects and helping immigrant workers to assess and rethink their skillsets accordingly. Immigrants may also need guidance on how to diversify their job search as well as when to pursue further qualifications and training to secure skills-commensurate employment.

The pandemic has shown us that Canada relies significantly on immigrants to do the essential jobs, but many newcomers shouldn’t be in these jobs to begin with. We cannot afford to ignore the overqualification challenge if we want to make immigration work better for everyone.

Yilmaz E. Dinc, PhD, is a Senior Research Associate for the Immigration Knowledge Area at The Conference Board of Canada. Dinc brings a decade of experience in applied research, along with his passion for inclusion, to drive thought leadership on immigration. Previously, he worked as Research and Evaluation Manager at the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council and in the global private-sector hub of the United Nations Development Programme.

Sun rising over Toronto cityscapeCareering

How to lead the career development revolution

We need a national strategy on career development in Canada to capitalize on social shifts and respond to labour market needs

Lisa Taylor and Taryn Blanchard

author headshotsIt’s an exciting time in Canada’s career development sector. Individual actors, organizations and projects are coming together. Awareness, expertise and commitment are coalescing. Focus is shifting from isolated activities to ambitious initiatives that emphasize co-ordination, amplify impact and prepare the sector for what comes next: a catalyst that ignites revolutionary change.

Challenge Factory and others are calling for a national strategy on career development in Canada. This call is urgent and essential if we want Canada to capitalize on social and economic shifts, to respond to labour market and employment needs and to seize on powerful opportunities for change when they arise.

Revolutions feel chaotic and disordered, but they also follow predictable patterns (Figure 1). In this article, we explore how the career development sector can shape its future in revolutionary times.

Illustration showing phases of revolutions: Early Phase (Tech, Trends, Thought Leaders); then, Emergent Shift (Work force, Work place); then, Urgent Change (Catalyst)
Figure 1: Revolutions follow patterns, from The Talent Revolution: Longevity and the Future of Work, Taylor and Lebo, p. 24.
Signs of a career development revolution: Early phase

In quiet discussions among practitioners, it’s well known that the career development sector is undergoing significant disruption. COVID-19, social justice awareness, advancement in technologies and the role of post-secondary institutions in linking learning and work are all causing cracks in traditional careers work.

The early phase of revolutionary change is marked not only by disruption, but also by an abundance of innovation, study and analysis. Over time, these separate activities come to align in a variety of ways that push sectors and societies forward. Let’s take a look at four early phase activities.

“The early phase of revolutionary change is marked not only by disruption, but also by an abundance of innovation, study and analysis.”

International benchmarking: In February, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a major report on the state of adult career guidance in Canada that details the need to strengthen co-ordination of careers policy across the country, encourage greater and more inclusive use of adult career services and promote high-quality service provision.

Book cover for Retain and GainDialogue and storytelling: Challenge Factory and CERIC are collaborating on a new Careers and Canadians webinar series that also focuses on the intersection of career development and public policy. Based on Retain and Gain: Career Management for the Public Sector, this series examines the personal career stories of senior policy leaders and where opportunity lies for a careers lens to inform policy development.

Professionalization: The Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF) is co-ordinating inclusive, sector-wide collaborative activities, including the renewal of practitioner standards and guidelines, the creation of a comprehensive competency model and the exploration of the feasibility of a professional institute.

Sector mapping: Efforts are under way to map the career development sector, including a project by CERIC and another from the Labour Market Information Council and Future Skills Centre. These projects aim to better understand career service providers across Canada, types of services being provided, client groups being served and the impact of these services.

These types of activities and information sources are important for building an evidence base that can be used to make informed decisions. To properly position the sector for revolutionary change, however, activities that look to learn from the past and understand the present will have a greater impact if they are also combined with activities that focus on anticipating what futures might be possible.

Recommendation: Stakeholders leading separate activities should recognize that our collective future is tied to working together. This is when true transformation will become possible. They should also start investing in future-focused tools and approaches, in the same way that they have invested in tools and approaches that research the past and present.

Getting organized: Emergent shift

In the second stage of revolutionary change, what we call the emergent shift, the importance of collective effort receives buy-in and everyone can see that a big moment is coming ­– but the conditions are not yet perfect for the catalyst that will set the full-scale revolution in motion. How do we ensure the sector is prepared to meet that big moment when it arrives?

Former Saskatchewan Deputy Minister Alastair MacFadden, the first guest in CERIC’s Careers and Canadians webinar series, notes that much of the sector is focused on optimizing the individual services provided to clients within current policy constraints. This includes advocating for better supports to reduce unemployment and faster access to training to fill skills gaps that are affecting the economy.

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“We’ll really start to make headway when we flip our focus,” MacFadden says. “We need to develop programs and policy with a view to what they mean for individual careers. Rather than investing in training programs for displaced oil workers, for example, we need to create energy policy that has meaningful employment embedded within it as a key priority.”

Recommendation: The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be taken up as an organizing framework for the sector’s future-focused planning. We already see this happening in pockets and on an ad hoc basis. Full adoption will allow us to draw together isolated activities and align our workstreams in service of broader needs and opportunities, such as the green economy, social justice and global migration patterns.

Preparing for the catalyst: urgent change

We don’t yet know which spark will be the catalyst that truly starts the revolution in career development across Canada. But once that catalyst occurs, it will activate urgent change, the third stage in the revolutionary cycle, and we will be able to move forward into whatever the new world is going to be – if we don’t let the uncertainty of upheaval stop us.

Recommendation: Create a national strategy on career development that is realistic in its implementation and wildly aspirational in its intent and impact. A national strategy must change how we perceive ourselves, our work and our impact, while demonstrating strong ties to other areas of social progress (the SDGs). Working toward this national strategy will position and prepare us to recognize the catalyst moment, when it comes, and shape a future that benefits Canadians and the sector.

Developing a national strategy (on anything) is a monumental task in Canada’s federated, diverse environment. Yet there are tools and methods to bring everyone to the table, to set achievable expectations and to ride the wave of revolutionary change. Right now, we would start by asking a few deceptively simple questions:

  1. What are the historical drivers of change in the sector?
  2. What emerging issues are we excited, concerned or confused about?
  3. If we continue as we are, what are a few likely scenarios that might occur (given what we know about current and future trends related to employment, labour, productivity, wellness and competitiveness)?
  4. If we had a national strategy in place, what additional scenarios might emerge?
  5. Which of the scenarios outlined in questions 3 and 4 are worth exploring in more detail?

Knowing how to ask better questions and what to do with the responses is a critical skill. Done well, this effort will challenge us all to zoom out from our work today, identify the collective future we want and see that future so clearly we can’t help but take steps to make it happen.

It’s time for the career development sector to forge a path to better work, employment, engagement, well-being, prosperity and productivity for all. Blazing new trails is challenging work. But such is the nature of revolutionary change – and Challenge Factory is energized by the potential. Let’s get to work!

Lisa Taylor is a sought-after expert, speaker and columnist on today’s changing world of work. She is the President of Challenge Factory, a full member of the Association of Professional Futurists, an associate at the National Institute on Ageing, and co-author of The Talent Revolution: Longevity and the Future of Work.

Taryn Blanchard is the head of research at Challenge Factory and holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Toronto.

Books with graduation cap inside labyrinth maze.Careering

Case Study: Bridging the gap between degree and career

How a mindset shift helped a graduate with a disability embark on a new career with confidence

Shakira Rouse

Author headshotIn my line of work, I am constantly helping students navigate major transitions from academics to the workforce. It is easy for me to look back now and understand how every step, failure and win helped me climb my career ladder. However, for a new graduate, the first step can seem like a hurdle – especially for a student with a disability.

Helping a new graduate make the transition from the classroom to the workforce requires a different approach to mentoring. I learned this first-hand with one of my most memorable mentees, Juliet.

Juliet’s story

Juliet was a recent graduate with an interest in social impact and community development. Yet she was not sure how to start working toward a career in this field with a degree in sociology. Specifically, she was worried about gaps in her career and work experience, which were a result of health issues. As a student with a disability, she was not sure how to enter the workforce with a disability and how to advocate for herself so potential employers would see her for her skills and talents.

In this recurring Careering feature, career professionals share their real-life solutions to common problems in the field. Read more Case Studies from Careering:

Carleton careers course aims to help students manage change and complexity
Bridging the digital-literacy gap for mature workers
Helping a client with autism improve her interview skills

Mindset is the foundation

The first step in helping new graduates climb that ladder is setting the foundation with a renewed mindset. Not every new graduate is able to obtain co-ops, summer jobs or internships in an area related to their studies and interest. Often, these new professionals do not see how the value and the skills obtained in previous jobs can be transferable to other positions.

In my initial meeting with Juliet, I conducted a small exercise with her. I asked Juliet to tell me more about her previous job experience. I challenged her to get specific by describing to me what a daily shift would consist of.

In this case, Juliet had previous experience as a sales associate in a department store. To her, key responsibilities such as helping customers, working the cash and stocking inventory did not equate to the skills new employers would be looking for. I coached Juliet to reframe her skills, indicating that it is all about language and how you view your experience. Responsibilities such as helping customers can translate to customer service. I helped her transcribe her skills into a new language that would be more appropriate and suited for her resume.

Changing the language of these skills also helped to change Juliet’s mindset and perception of herself. Gradually, Juliet began sharing more details about her academic journey, touching on why she decided to change programs and took an extra year to complete her degree.

Now in her late 20s, she feared that she was getting a delayed start in life. Many young professionals are living to fulfill an unwritten social rule that they need to accomplish major milestones by 30. I had to interject: “Juliet, you are right on time. There is no ‘30 time bomb,’” I said.

“You are not going to catch a whale by fishing in a lake. You want something big but are looking in small spaces.”

At this point in our mentee-mentor relationship, I felt it would be beneficial to share my personal story and journey. I told her about what led me to start Special Compass – an organization aimed at helping students with learning disabilities achieve success within and outside of the classroom. I talked about my setbacks in school, regaining my confidence, and juggling corporate life while starting a second degree and starting a business. I wanted Juliet to see that what may have seemed like a setback or a failing moment is actually a stepping stone to greatness. All the experience she has gained on her academic journey has helped give her insights and perspectives needed for community development.

Most importantly, I also reminded Juliet that having a disability is not a weakness but your biggest strength. Supporting Juliet to create a new perspective of her academic journey and work experience helped her give her that push needed to take action toward her success. Juliet came to our meetings more engaged and enthusiastic about finding a job.

However, while she was taking more impactful steps and initiatives, she was still hitting a bit of a wall in her job-hunting process.

Stepping into new arenas

Job hunting is a full-time job in itself. You need to stay up to date on the various new recruitment and interviewing methods. Unfortunately, almost every young professional I work with is not using effective job-hunting processes.

“You are not going to catch a whale by fishing in a lake. You want something big but are looking in small spaces,” I told Juliet. I explained that she needed to step into new arenas in her job-hunting process. For instance, using industry-specific job banks is more strategic than only using general job search banks.

Most importantly, networking is a must. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Instagram can be a great tool to make connections, establish a following and create a digital portfolio of one’s career.

Most new graduates are intimidated by the word networking. I once was too, until I learned that networking is just about meeting new people and having conversations.

A good way to help recent graduates step into new arenas is to encourage them to find a hobby. I encouraged Juliet to take this time to try a new class or do a workshop on an activity she enjoys. I also reminded her that with her studies behind her, she had more time to explore the things she may have always desired. In doing a new activity, you get out and meet new people, start conversations and build natural connections. This is what building your network is all about. You never know when you might be one degree of separation from a great job opportunity.

Today, I am happy to say that Juliet found a job and is embarking on new adventures in her career.

Shakira Rouse is the creator and founder of Special Compass, an organization dedicated to helping students with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Her innovative facilitating style has led to speaking engagements and interviews at various events in North America. In 2016, she received the Black Role Model Award from the Black Canadian Business Network, and in 2021, she was a nominee for the Universal Women’s Network’s Women of Influence Award.

Illustration of green tree with white roots growing below ground and multi-coloured leavesCareering

Client Side: Finding my way home – when your career leads the way

A career in professional fundraising opened up an unexpected path for this business owner to connect with her culture

Rowena Veylan

Author headshotI recently spoke with an Elder from my community. He told me that the Creator is there to guide those who will listen and then he taught me about the Medicine Wheel. I do not have much experience with learning from an Elder, metaphorically sitting at their feet and trying to absorb truths handed down through each generation. I often wonder what that would have been like, if things had been different.

My Grandmother spent 15 years in residential school, from the age of 3 to 18. She did not leave that residential school at all during those years. I once read an excerpt from an interview where she spoke about watching the birds outside and wishing that she had wings so that she could fly away. But even if she had wings, she had nowhere to fly to, nowhere to go.

It has taken me a long time to realize and fully appreciate what has been lost to me and to my family. Not only culture, but also the connection to family – both our direct family and the feeling of being a part of a larger community. I have spoken a lot about my own journey of finding my way home and have had to try to navigate that path forward for both myself and my daughter. It has not been an easy path to follow and I have often felt discouraged, with no idea of where to turn.

In the Client Side feature, workers and students reflect on successes and struggles in their career development. Read more Client Side articles from Careering:

You don’t need an ‘in-demand degree’ to be successful
Agility is the ‘resilience vitamin’ in a career with many twists and turns
I’ve become the career strategist I wish I had when launching my career

Surprisingly, the most unexpected gift of culture and connection opened up to me through my chosen career of professional fundraising. Let me explain!

In 2002, I was introduced to the world of fundraising, something that I had given little thought to in my life. I knew right away that it was the right fit for me as it spoke to my values. I appreciate being in a career that makes me feel like I am contributing, helping others and making a difference.

Through the years I worked for many different organizations and managed to gain experience in almost all facets of our profession. I moved up as I went along in my career until I was managing my own teams. I noticed that I was often brought into organizations in times of change to figure out what was going wrong and move things forward. I used to refer to getting the ship back on track, and at times, depending on the size of the ship, that could take years. When I look back on this time in my career, I realize that what I enjoyed most was contributing to the sustainability and strength of the organization and also mentoring and coaching fundraising staff to succeed.

“… there is no end to the learning, but also no end to the opportunity and joy and pride of having something that is yours.”

My passion to share my love for fundraising led to the opening of my virtual fundraising school, The New School of Fundraising, in the fall of 2021. The entire process from the niggling thought in the back of my mind to the day that the school opened its virtual doors was so much more work than I had expected! I have a newfound respect for any entrepreneur who follows their dream and opens a business. From learning about and drafting a business plan to developing a website and taking classes on digital marketing, there is no end to the learning, but also no end to the opportunity and joy and pride of having something that is yours.

I have often been asked why I opened a school. After almost 20 years as a frontline fundraiser, I was burned out, but when I asked myself what I loved most about the profession, it was changing the way that others saw fundraising and helping them to succeed. The process of starting a fundraising school has both surprised me and exceeded my expectations at the same time. I underestimated the amount of work that it would take to get the school off the ground, but since gaining some momentum, I have been overwhelmed with the good wishes and gratitude of those who come through our virtual doors.

I started wondering if I could somehow combine my fundraising knowledge with my interest in learning more about Indigenous culture – my own culture. Could the fundraising school help move reconciliation forward within the non-profit sector?  What would that even look like?

I created a workshop called Indigenous Protocols for Fundraisers with the intent to help the industry with its own reconciliation efforts. It has been our most popular workshop and our attendees have appreciated the safe place that we have created for conversation, learning and sharing. It is times like these that I am able to step into my own Indigenous space, which is so new to me.

Through this workshop, I have been connected to Indigenous fundraisers from across Turtle Island as well as an Elder in my own community who opens each workshop for us. What a gift it has been. Now this connection is driving a different path forward for both myself and the school. The New School of Fundraising will push on with how to support Indigenous fundraisers and Indigenous-led non-profit organizations. Along the way, I will get the gift of learning more about who I am, where I come from and where I belong.

It is interesting to me how our paths in life offer twists and turns. I would have never thought that my fundraising career and school would lead me right back to the path that I had been searching for all along.

A fundraiser, consultant, teacher and mentor, Rowena Veylan has been working within the non-profit industry since 2003 and is the current Founder and Lead Instructor of The New School of Fundraising. The school offers fundraising training to anyone who is interested in learning more about raising money. They run courses and workshops throughout the year, offer private training and host special events.