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Labour Market Possibilities after COVID-19

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Stephanie Dupley

“Are there going to be any jobs for me after this?”

This is a question that we’re hearing often right now at Career Development & Experiential Learning (CDEL).  The short answer is yes, but you will need to know how to navigate the labour market.

Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that this might be difficult.  I get that it’s frustrating (I graduated into a recession, too; here are some lessons learned from other people who graduated during the last one), and I get that it may be more difficult to find the opportunities you were hoping to find, but I also know that from crisis can come opportunity and that can be exciting!  With knowledge of the labour market possibilities, you can make smart, well-informed career decisions that can help you to find success!

What does the labour market look like right now?

Currently, the economic condition of Canada can be a bit overwhelming to look at.  In April, Canada experienced a record decline in employment in just one month, losing almost 2 million jobs and leaving the unemployment rate sitting around 13%.  This is on top of the over one million jobs lost in March.  Not only did people lose their jobs, but many who were still working were working less hours.  In mid-April, 5.5 million Canadians were either no longer working or were working less hours.  That’s huge!

Reports show that sectors at risk during the pandemic and recession include accommodation and food services (such as hotels and restaurants), arts, entertainment, and recreation, transportation, retail trade, some manufacturing, and oil and gas.

This is not all doom and gloom, however.  About 97% of those who lost their jobs in April were on temporary lay-offs, meaning they likely can return to work once social distancing requirements are lessened.  Ontario just announced that it will begin taking measures to start re-opening the economy, so it is hopeful that some of these people may be able to soon go back to work.

Even when social distancing requirements are relaxed, however, it is likely that the economy will improve in increments as opposed to suddenly bouncing back, as we will ease into a re-opened economy.  This may be the case until a vaccine is developed and distributed.  Some experts predict that it may take 2 years for the economy to fully recover from the pandemic.

This doesn’t sound good; is there any good news?

Let’s discuss the good news (yes, there is good news!).  Some sectors have actually been doing well in Canada and are hiring!  Randstad reported that sectors which are actively hiring during the COVID-19 crisis include essential retail (such as grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.), banking and finance, telecommunications (not surprising when you consider that everyone is communicating from a distance), customer service (to help people with changing businesses and policies), public health and government, healthcare, some manufacturing (especially those which are helping to produce PPE and medical supplies), engineering and architecture (where it is deemed essential), technology and IT, and news and publishing (someone’s got to report on the murder hornets). 

Technology plays a major role in the success of these sectors.  The world is changing and the ways that people are doing things, such as relying more on online shopping, are changing. Businesses are needing to adapt to these changes and come up with innovative solutions, and the tech companies that can help them do so are experiencing growth during the pandemic.  This means that we are seeing accelerated technological advancements and hiring within these tech companies.

If you’re not a technological wizard, don’t panic; there are opportunities for you, too.  The jobs currently available include, but also go beyond, the “typical tech” jobs.  The expertise currently being sought out includes product management, engineering and development, trust and security, UX design, data science, biotechnology, marketing management, finance, legal, HR, sales, medical, and mental health, among more. 

The World Economic Forum noted that occupations that fall within the “Care Economy” (such as healthcare workers and educators) have been critical during the pandemic and predicted that they will continue to increase, as will roles within technology creation and e-commerce.  They also predict that as the economy rebounds, jobs within the green economy, science and health research, and digital infrastructure will emerge.

As you can see, there are some cool opportunities and advancements emerging from the pandemic!  You want to be sure you can take advantage of these opportunities.

Okay, but how does one get into these opportunities?

When talking about the jobs and sectors that may be promising in the future, it’s important to also look at what makes candidates competitive to get into those jobs and sectors: skills.

Some skills that have been predicted to become important in a post-COVID-19 labour market are the ones that allow employees to be flexible and moveable in the labour market and adaptable to changes in technology or policies.  These include adaptability, an ability to work with technology, creativity, data literacy, coding skills, leadership, emotional intelligence, commitment to learning, writing, and initiative.

Back in January (why does that feel like years ago?), the World Economic Forum reported that the skills that are important for the future labour market fall into five clusters: Business Skills (such as marketing and project management), Specialized Industry Skills (these depend on your industry), General and Soft Skills (leadership, problem solving, communication, etc.), Tech Baseline Skills (for example, social media, Microsoft), and Tech Disruptive Skills (including robotic, cloud computing, and cybersecurity).  In May, the World Economic Forum reported that the pandemic will quicken digitization and automation across a variety of sectors, and with these accelerated changes in technology, these digital and human skills previously mentioned are even more vital. 

In order to take advantage of the emerging opportunities, you need to be able to demonstrate that you have the skills. 

How do you get these skills?

Though it may be more difficult than you were expecting, you can get through this recession and be ready for new and exciting changes by being able to demonstrate to employers that you have the skills they are looking for.  You likely already have many of these skills.  Examine your past work, volunteer, and academic experiences (such as course work and projects) to find evidence of how your use of these skills led to success.  One example is your sudden change to an online learning environment.  Through this, you have already demonstrated that you can be flexible, adaptable, and resilient with policies, processes, and some technology.  Continue to search for examples like this in your past, current, and future experiences.

Then look at the skills you may need to develop or strengthen and look for experiences and opportunities that will allow you to demonstrate and exercise these skills (see our post on building your skills during the pandemic here). 

This recession may mean that you start out in positions that weren’t what you were hoping for, but focusing on developing your in-demand skills in those positions (which you can do in any position) will allow you to rise and excel in the exciting post-COVID-19 labour market.  You can do this! 

We can help!

At CDEL, we are here to help you with all your career-related questions.  To complement the one-on-one career advising appointments that you can book on mySuccess, we now also have a CDEL Blackboard site where you can participate in live, online workshops, meet quickly with a career advisor during our drop-in career advising hours, or learn from our career tools and resources that cover a variety of career topics.




Stephanie Dupley is a Career Advisor - International & Graduate Students with Career Development & Experiential Learning