Looking at tomorrow’s job market…

They’ll leave behind high paying jobs, while their growing health care needs offer a tremendous growth opportunity in a raft of health-related industries as well as in supplying health services.

By: Roger Gibbins, president and CEO of Canada West Foundation
       and Ryan Pike, Jim Hume student intern with the Canada West Foundation.

With the Canadian economy recovering from the recent recession, Canada’s economic outlook is in good shape compared to the rest of the world. Canada is the only G7 country that has returned to pre-recession levels of real output. While the past few years haven’t been optimal for recent graduates entering the workforce, opportunities for youth employment are gradually improving.

Arguably the most significant change to the workforce in the coming years will be a demographic shift due to the gradual exit of the baby boomers. At present, the boomers dominate the workforce and hold a large proportion of high-earning and senior jobs, due to their experience and education levels.

Their retirements will impact the job market in two ways.

First, their gradual exodus from the workforce will vacate many high-earning jobs, providing sufficiently qualified candidates opportunities to get a shot at them. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada estimates that most available jobs in the next decade will be in areas requiring a university degree.

Moreover, the aging population itself will create opportunities for future job growth. Health care is important to all Canadians and with an increasing share of the population reaching retirement age it will likely become an even more pressing concern. It could represent a tremendous growth opportunity, not just in the delivery of health care services but also in the related industries such as drugs, equipment and information technology.

In terms of broader job market trends, the movement towards a more service-oriented economy seems likely to continue. Based upon expected levels of computer-literacy and education among younger job-seekers, technological knowledge will likely become the rule, not the exception, and the difference-maker for employers could be how well the tech savvy can communicate. In a global world powered by instant messaging, mastery of clear communication will be critical to success.

Given its importance to Canada’s export markets, the energy sector will likely remain a key driver of the country’s economy. However, the growing concern over carbon-heavy fuels combined with the maturity of conventional resources will likely mean that much of the job growth could be concentrated in renewable and unconventional energy sources. The anticipated high production costs for both have created a huge appetite for innovation and people who can fuel it.

While graduates and soon-to-be graduates should not think the job market will be fantastic, it’s probably not going to be as bad as they have been led to believe either. The economy is gradually improving so more jobs are cropping up, and all of this is occurring before the demographic shift in the workforce begins. The same tools will allow job-seekers to be competitive now and in the future – a degree, applicable skills and a flexibility to take on challenges as they present themselves.

Projections of the future are often inaccurate. Some of the job market’s biggest opportunities might just come out of nowhere, to the advantage of those unintentionally best prepared for them.

Roger Gibbins is president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation. Ryan Pike is a Jim Hume Student Intern with the Canada West Foundation. Ryan has BAs in both  political science and economics from the University of Calgary where he studied from 2004 until 2010.

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