By Sheryl Smolkin
Read this article and comments at Moneyville.ca
When I read several recent reports from TD Economics titled “Older workers stampede into the labour market” and “The plight of younger workers,” I couldn’t help thinking that they were two sides of the same coin.
With the virtual elimination of mandatory retirement and the impact of the recession on retirement savings, more Canadians age 60-65 and even over 70 are going back to work. One of the most popular employment sectors among this group was retail.
Yet with an unemployment rate of over 14.5 per cent, younger Canadians aged 15-24 years accounted for more than half of all net job losses during the recession and employment still stands some 250,000 below its pre-recession peak. Youth job losses were recorded in retail, construction, manufacturing, and accommodation/food services.
When I asked Francis Fong, a TD economist and author of the two reports why young people are having so much trouble getting a toehold in the job market, he pointed out that college graduates applying for jobs are competing not only with their own age cohort, but with mobile, more experienced workers in a global marketplace. After all, anyone, anywhere can access the same online job ads.
Fong also told me that young people who graduate during a recession take a substantial hit to their initial income that can take anywhere from 10 to more than 15 years to close the gap. This has a knock on effect on their ability to marry, buy homes and have children.
While I can understand that in some cases it may be much easier for employers to hire older, experienced people who need little training or supervision, surely smart, well-educated young people can be brought up to speed within a very short time. Besides, energetic, enthusiastic, tech savvy younger workers can bring a breath of fresh air to any organization. And how much training does it take to work in retail?
Smart workplace planning also requires an ongoing supply of entry-level hires in the pipeline. Several years after employers cut back college recruiting in previous recessions, they were faced with a dearth of candidates for important intermediate and middle management roles.
Now don’t get me wrong. I think that people of any age who are able work should be entitled to. I am over 60 and I take great pride in the experience and work ethic I bring to every project I take on. But people like me are not a long-term solution to the looming shortage of skilled workers, because we are going to eventually retire or die. That’s a just a fact of life.
At a time when a proactive government/private sector partnership is most required, the recent announcement of a shutdown of 300 student employment centres by the federal Human Resources department in order to save $6.5 million does not bode well. Simply enhancing online tools instead is not enough.
We raised our children to believe that with hard work and commitment they can do anything they put their minds to. Now is their time to start climbing the leadership ladder. Let’s stop blaming the economy and find a way to give more of them an opportunity to get their foot on the first rung.