Why Giving Students ‘Hope’ May Help Solve Canada’s Skills Shortage

by Catherine on 24 Oct, 2017

There is a labour shortage right now across Canada. Why are so many graduates having a hard time finding a job?

As Canada Career Month gets ready to kick off on November 1st, it’s a good time for educators to focus on an area of every Province’s curricula where there is a ton of research on how to prepare students for the jobs that are waiting for them.

And there are a lot of jobs out there right now. For example, by 2019 it’s estimated there will be 182,000 job openings in Canada’s tech sector—and no Canadians to fill them. There are so few construction workers available currently that it’s slowing down B.C.’s red-hot housing market. Vancouver has a major problem attracting workers. So do other communities all across Canada.

“More than half of employers can’t find qualified staff,” says a business leader in Windsor, Ontario. “We’re leaving about $600 million of economic opportunity on the table, and what I mean by that is that jobs that are vacant that aren’t filled.” On the other hand, despite this cornucopia of jobs, there is a serious problem of youth underemployment in Canada.

“A lot of people are wondering why we have employers saying they can’t find qualified talent at the same time as we’re seeing so many new graduates without jobs,” says Sareena Hopkins, Executive Director of the Canadian Career Development Foundation. “Canada has one of the most highly educated youth cohorts in the world, yet they struggle to transition successfully to work.” The Globe and Mail recently reported that according to the federal government’s 2015 Labour Market Assessment, 40 percent of university graduates were underemployed. CIBC reported that 66 percent of parents were supporting adult children financially.

If there are so many jobs, why are new graduates struggling with employment? I would argue the challenge is keeping up with the rate of change that is occurring in our economy. But how can educators themselves keep up when things are changing so quickly for everyone, everywhere? The answer is teaching kids to adapt–and to have hope for the future.

Adapting to What’s Next–the Key to Managing Your Career

When I finished 10th grade, many phones were still rotary dial. Ten years later, all known knowledge in the history of the world was available on a phone in my pocket. I have been working in this industry in various ways ever since. What high-school prerequisite in the late 1980’s would have prepared me for this transformation? The answer: nothing. Instead, like everyone else my age, I had to adapt. Now, consider how much communication, transportation, shipping, culinary arts and many other industries will be different in the next 10 years!

The key to adapting, I found, was for me to be engaged with my own career path. And I was engaged because I had a sense of hope for the future. A career focus provided me with that. Despite the fact that what I thought my career would be back then (a paleontologist) was a far cry from where I have ended up (so far!), while I progressed through secondary school my career interest was like a rope that pulled and guided me all the way through school. I picked my courses because of where I thought I was going. I was more invested in my education, and therefore more likely to “learn how to learn”, honing what some psychologists call an ‘adaptability competency’.

Why Hope Is Critical Part of Career Preparation

According to psychologist Charles Richard “Rick” Snyder, human actions are always goal-directed. Individuals, according to Snyder, must see themselves as capable of finding plausible routes to attaining their goals. Snyder, who died in 2006, called this pathway thinking—being able to conceive of at least one plausible route to goal attainment. When faced with a barrier, we can either give up or we can use our pathway thoughts to create new routes. Low hope individuals are more likely to give up. High hope individuals view barriers as challenges to overcome and use their pathway thoughts to plan an alternative route to their goals. In the face of daunting headlines aimed at taking away all hope for a successful career, we can see that helping our students engage in hopeful thought is crucial.

How Career Development Can Help Foster Hope

Career Development is a major force in helping students get engaged, which increases graduation rates. It fosters ‘hope’, which is a stronger predictor of objective academic achievement than intelligence, personality or grades. Career educators foster help by:

  • Educating students about career paths
  • Helping students learn more about themselves, and what that means for their career
  • Explaining how to access career paths

This knowledge becomes the bedrock of hope that will help students build strong careers, and take advantage of a labour market that is begging for skilled workers. It’s always important to keep in mind that the objective is not K-12, it is K-Career. We must continually look over the horizon of graduation to the ‘career’, and work our way back to today, checking that we are on a path to our goal.

“What’s Next?” Canada Career Month!

The theme for Canada Career Month this November is “What’s Next?” The official event for the month is ChatterHigh’s national competition: “Canada’s Most Informed School”. This activity is used in schools across Canada and helps students become aware of many more pathways and resources, which helps them make better choices. This fosters hope and with the support of their teachers, parents and counsellors, can increase student engagement.

My company, ChatterHigh (www.chatterhigh.com), is devoted to introducing students to a variety of resources that can be used every day in a career education classroom to allow students to explore all things positive about career planning, set goals, figure out pathways and instil hope for the future.

Let Me Know What You Think

  • Is the traditional approach to career prep failing students?
  • Do you have any suggestions?

Let me know in the comments. Also, SHARE this article with people in your network. I want to know your opinion so we can start making changes to help our kids—and help our prosperous economy flourish!

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