For all the doom and gloom we hear about a struggling economy, unemployment and the dearth of opportunities for young people in today’s work force, it can be hard to stay optimistic about the future. Despite the ominous stories we see and hear every day, things really aren’t so bad—if you do a little reading and view them through the right lens.
The fact is that we, as young adults right now, are probably one of the luckiest generations society has ever known. Particularly for those of us here in Canada, the wealth of education and resources available to us at this critical point of life means we are better equipped to tackle today’s economic problems and use them to our advantage. Whether you’re looking to permanently enter the workforce, continue your education, or perhaps use one to help step towards the other, there’s a world of choices available to you.
Let’s start with education. What was once a luxury for upper classes with the money to finance it, is now integral to most careers. It’s no wonder that Canada ranks amongst the best-educated nations in the world—Conference Board of Canada statistics rank us fifth in university completion rates out of 17 of the world’s most developed nations—and has the economic opportunities to show for it. With its rise in stature and importance, access to education has become ever more available to people looking to move up in the world.
Our society is helping foster these choices through education funding and government support, ranging from tax incentives and tuition controls to programs that foster innovation and skills enhancement. Although education is still expensive, and costs are climbing—the recent unrest in Quebec is a particularly glaring example of this problem—the financial support tools available from all levels of government, as well as the private sector, are impressive. Touching on the increasing blur between career and education, many employers now offer incentives and reimbursements for courses that have relevance to business for their employees looking to expand their expertise. The fact remains that for people who are willing to commit themselves to hard, sometimes thankless work, the money is there, through loans, scholarships and reimbursement programs. It’s not always easy, but it’s certainly possible for those who work for it.
The world outside the education sphere is equally favourable to those just starting their careers. Canada has done a great job of fostering the so-called “information and knowledge” sector—wide and varied fields that have become increasingly important as we, like many societies around the world, move into a post-industrial age. If we take a look at the top 100 employers in Canada today, they’re almost entirely based in this information-and-knowledge sector: banks, hospitals, technology companies, government and corporate information centres. While the news is dominated with talk of a declining manufacturing sector, the fantastic rise in job-rich areas like health and biotechnology, finance and information management is mostly flying under the radar.
All these employers have boomed because they have support from society through a steady stream of intelligent, ambitious young workers eager to put their skills to the test. The jobs in this sector, even the ones that are still being created, are the source of so much potential and opportunity for us.
The forces at work in today’s economy are not going to be kinder to us as we move into the future. As life expectancies improve, people are working longer and fewer jobs are opening up at the top ends of certain fields. An aging overall population is going to continue straining government resources and funding for a long time to come. Similarly, rising economies in other parts of the world will lead to increasing competition and selectivity in terms of who gets the best jobs in the best industries. We must be vigilant then and continue working hard—the opportunities are still there, after all. You just have to be willing to work, have the right tools and know where to look.