MONTREAL — With entry-level job postings down as much as 25 per cent, Canadian graduate schools are bracing for an increase in applications for next year as students opt to stay in school longer rather than enter the workforce at a time of economic uncertainty.
The University of Toronto has already received 12,631 grad school applications, about nine per cent more than it had received at the same time last year, graduate studies dean Susan Pfeiffer said.
While applications are still pouring in, Queen’s University MBA director Scott Carson said the prestigious program has thus far received twice the number of applications it had at this time last year.
“In times of economic slowdown, yes, university participation rates tend to go up,” added Tom Buckley, registrar at the Saint John campus of the University of New Brunswick.
“At this point it’s a little too early to tell if we’re seeing an actual increase, but we would sort of be inclined to anticipate an increase. Students will take a look at graduate study and professional programs if the job market is soft in their area.”
Administrators expect competition for scarce entry level jobs will be fierce, but so too will competition for some graduate programs given the increase in applications.
Gregg Blachford, McGill University’s director of career planning services, admitted an influx in grad school applications is common in tough economic times, but he cautions students against staying in school for the wrong reasons.
“There are still jobs and…opportunities out there, especially for university graduates,” he said, adding students can’t just rely on postings but must also reach out to potential employers.
“We encourage students to continue to look for work in the same way, but they’ll probably have to work harder to get a position than previously.”
While his counterparts at the University of Calgary suggest job postings at the school have dipped as much as 25 per cent, Blachford said McGill has experienced just a 10 per cent decline thus far.
Despite a small drop in participants at their upcoming technology career fair, Blachford said employer participation in university job fairs remains strong for most industries.
University of Calgary career services director Voula Cocolakis said the annual career fair that takes place in February was totally sold out by this time last year and she’s optimistic it will sell out again.
Still, she said a few companies have pulled out while others have forsaken taking out ads or sponsorship opportunities related to the event in order to cut down on costs.
As for last year’s graduates, career experts say it doesn’t appear employers are, to any great degree, reneging on earlier offers of employment because of the economic situation.
“The last time that happened it was the 2001 bubble bust… That was the dot-com bust,” said Andre Gagnon, Concordia University’s career services co-ordinator.
“That was really heavy.”
Carson said the number of Queen’s MBA students who’ve already secured jobs is actually on par with last year and he’s heard of just one student who had a job offer delayed before it was ultimately rescinded due to the ailing economy.
According to Statistics Canada figures released last week, more than 34,000 jobs were lost across the country last month alone.
Still, despite the grim forecasts, university administrators and job experts suggest generation Y may well be in the best position to weather this economic storm.
Some suggest most are wrapped up in their studies and haven’t really given much thought to their job prospects just yet.
But while they may get off to a slow start – some might even have to move back in with mom and dad for a time – they will catch up quickly as they’re called upon to replace retiring baby boomers, said Adwoa Buahene, a workplace demographics expert and founder of n-gen People Performance Inc.
She said gen-Yers are also multi-skilled individuals who don’t see themselves staying at the same job or even in the same career for the rest of their lives, which makes them more “adaptable” to the current environment.
— The Canadian Press