My name is Ian Bird and I'm the CEO of Community Foundations of Canada. Our Vital Signs study released in October tracked the challenges faced by young job seekers in Canada in the coming decade. Check out the video in the link :)

The study shows that today’s young professional are growing up in an era of complexity and uncertainty. Changes have delayed, or even destroyed, the landmarks that once signaled a transition from one phase of life to another.

I'm taking questions today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in an IAmA about the factors impacting Generation Y and more, what you can expect when you get out into the workforce, and the kinds of skills and resources you will need to succeed in #GenerationFlux.

I will start answering at 1 p.m. Here's a pic of me for verification.

UPDATE: 2:30 ET - Thanks for all your questions and inviting me to be part of this community! Keep the conversation going.

Comments: 103 • Responses: 14  • Date: 

Fjosnisse29 karma

Hi Ian, thanks for the IAMA. A few questions for you:

  1. Although Canadian youth are in a 'less than ideal' situation, some have argued that we're measuring 'success' using an outdated point of reference. Since people are generally living longer lives, it's not as imperative for a young person to settle into a job with career prospects until their mid to late twenties. In essence "thirty is the new twenty". Do you agree with this?

  2. When the current boomers retire (for health reasons or otherwise) its expected that there is going to be a labour shortage and that currently unemployed youth will eventually be able to find employment with greater ease. Do you think this is true?

  3. Many youth are unemployed, but there is a skilled-labour shortage that presents a significant threat to Canada's economic well-being. Positions for skilled-trades are going unfilled. Do you think part of the problem can be remedied if we abandon the attitude that 'University is the most important thing for getting a job' and instead work to really promote skilled-trades? Skilled-trades, unfortunately, don't attract the same level of respect as 'University' graduates do. If we were to really work to re-frame skilled-trades as a respectable and well-paying alternative to University, is it possible that we can help remedy our current unemployment problems?

Ian_Bird10 karma

  1. One of the things we heard loud and clear at our national youth dialogue that followed the release of our #GenFlux report was that redefining success matters. So for some, your question is right on the mark. For others they want to redefine success with the view that 20 is still 20. And so what's a sustainable career and way through life for those that are looking to engage in their communities now and what does it mean for those that are exploring and looking to more fully engage later? These are the implications of the report that we want to examine.

  2. All indications are that the labour market will change as boomers exit the worforces. What we're interesting in is how ready we are for that change, and in particular what will happen for #GenFlux to prepare them for those new gaps and changes in the new labour market.

  3. First, in today's global society and global economy the development of human capital and the knowledge base that comes from Universities is critical to Canada's future success. Those investment will reap long-term dividends for our country and our communities. In addition, we can do a much better job of identifying the other ways that we are going to build the other types of human capital that our businesses, communities, gov'ts and non-profit organizations need. So the key thing is not to think of these as opposites - skilled-trades vs. university graduates - but to think of them as complements worthy of ongoing investment by all of us.

Canadave9 karma

Are you hiring? ;)

Seriously, though, as someone stuck in the rut between having good education but little experience, how do you break out and get noticed? It's insanely frustrating when you send out 100+ resumes, use professional connections when you can, and still get barely any response because entry-level jobs seem to be similar to unicorns in Canada. Aren't employers going to realize they're starting to ignore an entire segment of the workforce?

Ian_Bird2 karma

What a great question! One of the findings from #GenFlux that struck a chord for us all were the uniques skills and attributes of this generation and how aligned they were for this work environment - globally-minded, highly-connected, values-based and ready to pursue new opportunities. As employers adjust to tap into those strengths I think you'll see more greater committment to this up-and-coming generation to what they bring to any organization. Good luck!

tizniz7 karma

Hi Ian,

Thank you for doing this AMA. I am a US citizen and another recent graduate. While my field of study was admittedly not the most lucrative (illustration and design) I have found that there is plenty of work out there. The only problem is that no one seems to be willing to pay a rate that is reasonable to a college graduate with student loans. Many jobs offer a flat rate of only $100 USD or so for a 15 hour job, or hourly rates in the range of $8.50 to $13.50 USD.

Do you think that the high unemployment rate is making it easier for employers to take advantage of the young workforce and undercut their wages because competition for ANY kind of job is so high right now?

Ian_Bird3 karma

While our report doesn't specifically address your question, what it does identify is that access to the labour market is limited for #GenFlux and that this is compounded by the financial circumstances that many graduates are facing - high depbt levels and high cost of living in our urban centres. Policy makers will need to start addressing these factors related to living wage, if they aren't already.

dude____________what5 karma

What was the method and structure of the study? What was the most interesting or unexpected result of your study?

Ian_Bird1 karma

The most interesting finding was that 50% of the job losses were abosrbed by #GenFlux which made up just 16% of the job market during the recession. This happened at the same time an additional 90,000 jobs were sourced by the oldest part of the workforce which many had predicted were just about to exit the labour market when the recession hit.

dimmonkey4 karma

Hi Ian, I have a question.

I've gotten my college diploma in social services, and have been trying to break into the field for over three years now. I volunteer and work full time in a completely unrelated field, and go to Ryerson when I can afford to take a class. I'm working towards advanced standing in their BSW program. As it stands, it's going to take me about 4 more years to finish the last two years of my BSW if I go on this way.

I am wondering if it's smarted to ditch Toronto entirely and move further north/east/more rural in order to try to enter social work with my current credentials and take courses on line or at a different university as I can. I don't know if it's smarter to become more educated here or to move away and try to get experience. Is a university education really going to help me?

Any insight you can offer would be massively appreciated. Thanks for the AMA!

Ian_Bird2 karma

That's a great question for the career counselling folks at Ryerson who have specific data about the social work field. What I can offer is that labour mobility is at an all time high and young Canadians are actively moving from place to place to put their skills to work. Visit Grande Prarie or Fort McMurray and you'll discover many of our friends from the Maritimes have found a way to create a new way of life.

XxLykosxX4 karma

Very cool. I graduate with a BSc in Psyc this April and I've currently began scoping out the rather obtuse job market. I have a few questions.

  1. My sister graduated a couple years ago and was willing to relocate (twice) and has been extremely successful. Do you think a sense of entitlement and a lack of willingness to "pay your dues" is a reason why people don't find gainful employment?

  2. There are jobs our their and I've currently found a few potential jobs but without volunteering and going to some, at times absurd, lengths, I would not have found these jobs. Do you think it's fair that many jobs rely heavily on social networking? and if not how could we fix that? Who you know is usually more important that what you know.

  3. You speak of life transitions, how does identity and maturity factor into things? Did you study investigate these things in depth?

Ian_Bird9 karma

Thx for your questions.

  1. When one particular generation absorbs 50% of the job losses during a recession, and yet only accounts for 16% of the labour market, then you know the challenges facing young people are systemic and not casually attributed to a certain work ethic. Our experience is that young people are eager to make it happen and are meeting up against barriers that previous generations haven't experienced all at once: rising tuition, student debt, downward pressures on job market, etc.

  2. A notable finding in the #GenFlux report is that this generation doesn't clearly separate the workplace and their lifestyle. Relationships will matter as much or more for the millenials than previous workforces.

  3. Fascinating question. It isn't something that we explored in our report, but this would make for interesting findings.

bigmacd243 karma

Your study has some new numbers in it that are interesting. I really liked the '1 in 3' university graduates are doing low paid low skilled work. What I wanted is a rough percentage of how many youths with university degrees are currently working in their chosen fields. It seems like 1 in 3 are doing low paying work, 1 in X are hiding in academia, getting post-graduate degrees and stacking up debt waiting for the economy to improve, 1 in Y are looking for work actively.

I would really like to know how frequent the 'go to school, get a degree, get a decent paying job' career path is working out for my generation, and how that compares against historical trends.

Ian_Bird2 karma

That traditional path is unrecognizable for most today. There are delays, false starts, a desire for an alternative path altogether. We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that this might be part of the reordering of our communities, economies and environment as we grapple with some of the big picture challenges our world is facing. Is growth sustainable? What society do we want?

shiv4m2 karma

What a cool name.

I'm a recent graduate and like you stated, I was having a tough time finding a suitable position that fit my background. As a matter of fact, I still am looking for that ideal position in my field of interest. Granted, I live in the northeast where the unemployment rate is very high (third highest in the US) and the hardships of being a student + the unemployment rate being that high means finding a job is very hard. I work at a semi-related position right now that is temporary, and I am seriously considering to moving to a different part of the US where there is a decent economy. The downside to this is that I don't have a job lined up.

What do you think are the best ways to get that first job? I've been in contact with 8-10 recruiting agencies and I contact them on a weekly basis, and I apply to many companies on a daily basis. I have tweaked my resume countless times and I believe I look very good on paper.

Ian_Bird1 karma

Thx for your question. Like I said to Spaddlewitt, there's nothing like engaging in your community. Start networking and meeting people doing interesting work in your new place of living that might be a fit for you.

Eric_TheHalfABee1 karma

If students are entering an era of uncertainty in their working future, would you suggest attempting to be self-employed?

Ian_Bird3 karma

Youth social entrepreneurship is an emerging and growing field. Policy makers and innovators, such as our friends at Motivate Canada, Trillium Foundation and Laidlaw Foundation, are buidiling infrastructure to more effectively support young social entrepreneurs. We can anticipate that we will look back on the coming years as a time of explosive innovation driven by young people. Some argue that it will paralell the late 60's and early 70's - another period of young exuberance. Did you know that the average age of engineers and scientists in the NASA control room when Armstrong walked on the moon was 27? We're on the edge of similar demographic occassion.

diordnadionarap1 karma

Hi there. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

I'm a semi-recent grad (three years out with an honours degree). I have done at least five internships, both paid and unpaid, at prestigious companies since I graduated. However, I have yet to have any luck getting a permanent full-time gig.

Now I'm toying with whether or not to go back to school and get a masters degree, or keep trying to get a permanent job?

I'm a journalist and there are very few jobs available in my line of work at the moment, but I think that's also pretty much the case in most industries right now, right?

So my questions are: -How likely is it for the industry to turn around in the next couple of years? -Is it worthwhile to leave the workforce to get more education while waiting for the industry to turn around?

Ian_Bird1 karma

Hey - what you're asking related to the central finding of #GenFlux report. Young people are involved in or contemplating additional investments in their own skills and life experiences as they bump up against a labour market with significant constraints. One the one hand, investing in yourself and your education provides a better chance of long-term success in the workforce. On the other hand, the time that you and your peers are putting in is unprecedented compared to previous generations. Which means it's a judgement call in which many of your peers are opting for enhancing their education. Canada has the most educated generation in its history waiting to make a major contributing to challenges facing our environment, communities and economy.

Spaddlewit1 karma


Canadian student here. What can I do to make myself more attractive to employers? I've separated myself as best as I can from my colleagues within my field, but it doesn't seem to be enough these days.

Ian_Bird3 karma

One thing that we've learned through our work as community foundations across the country is there's nothing more powerful than buidling relationships through public service. The combo of a strong network and a commitment to your community positions you well for opportunities where you want to live and work.

Jaberworky1 karma

I know you're not an American, but with your background, what is your opinion on the raise in minimum wage thing people are talking about a lot right now over in the USA? You think a raise will make finding jobs for youth even worse?

Ian_Bird3 karma

The way I see it is that any discussion about the minimum wage in Canada - and these are frequent public policy debates - ought to factor in what #GenFlux is trying to address right now. The two key factors are 1) Liveability in urban centres where the jobs are and the costs are high, 2) rising tuition fees and debt loads. These are the realities of today's post-secondary education. Figuring out the minimum wage needs to be addressed in light of these issues.

corialis1 karma

Do the youth working labour in resource sectors have any plans for when they aren't young and able to do such labour-intensive jobs? Many of my fellow young adults get these oil field jobs and blow all the money on, well, blow. If they planned well, they could make some great investments and retire very early, but it seems like it's such a transient profession where no one is planning beyond the next 5 years of big resource money.

Ian_Bird1 karma

We know of the challenges faced by boom and bust cycles in resource industries. What we seem less capable of doing is mitigating the negaitve effects.

freemarket27-3 karma

Does Canada have a minumim wage law? Would Canadian youth be better able to get an entry level job if they were allowed to work for any pay level they were willing to agree to?

Ian_Bird1 karma

Canada does have a minimum wage law. If anything we need to think about what makes for a living wage and how our economy and public policies can align to produce this for more Canadians than we currently do.