Whether in the midst of their first or final year of post-secondary education, the new year for students often signals a new job search. This search can encompass anything from a summer job to help pay expenses to a first career opportunity. Whatever their road map, confronting and addressing the skills gap will undoubtedly be part of a graduate’s journey.
Entering the Canadian job market is challenging, and the school-to-work transition is no longer guaranteed to be swift, fluid or successful. According to RBC’s Humans Wanted Report, automation will impact at least 50 per cent of Canadian jobs in the next 10 years. Skills mobility – the ability to move from one job to another – will become a new competitive advantage.
We know that a skills gap exists, but how can we help young people better understand the skills they have, and how can we better equip them with the tools and resources they need to succeed?
We need to better understand the Skills Gap
The skills gap fundamentally boils down to a dissonant understanding between employers and employees about what skills employees have, and what skills employers expect them to have. According to an August, 2018 survey, 41% of Canadian employers report difficulty filling jobs, citing lack of experience and hard skills among candidates as key reasons.
In the school-to-work transition for post-secondary students, this dissonance manifests in the skills and experiences expected for entry-level or summer jobs, compared with the skills and experiences students gain through a formal university education. Some argue that this gap is field-specific; that, for example, our education system produces too many graduates with arts degrees, and not enough with STEM backgrounds. At its core, however, the skills gap represents an opportunity gap – for students and prospective employers alike – that prevents each group from reaching their full potential.
The good news
The good news related to the skills gap can often be lost in the debate and statistics: there is a strong demand for university graduates, and these graduates have in-demand skills. As outlined in RBC’s Humans Wanted Report, Canada’s new skills economy will give rise to a growing demand for “human skills”- critical thinking, coordination, social perceptiveness, active listening and complex problem solving - across all job sectors. The challenge is to empower students to better understand and communicate their skills, and help them bridge the skills gap.
Bridging the skills gap
We can help students bridge the skills gap in a number of ways:
Communicating their experience
Skills requirements on job postings often appear daunting. For students and new grads, skills such as interpersonal communication, leadership, and client management may not resonate. Helping students make tangible connections between the skills that professional employers are looking for, and the skills they have developed through different life experiences is key. RBC Upskill is a highly-personalized resource that tackles this challenge. The tool uses Canadian labour market data and takes stock of a user’s career-relevant skills to help young people understand how their skills and work experience will help prepare them for the jobs of the future: leadership skills might stem from a sports team captaincy; communication skills might stem from a summer spent as a camp counselor.
Understanding their degree
Many students and new grads are unaware of the breadth of opportunities associated with their degree, and the various career doors it can open. A first-year philosophy student, for example, might not be aware of the connections between philosophic literature and the Canadian legal system. Similarly, young political science students may not be aware that an entire government relations and lobbying industry employs people across Canada.
We know young people are keen, confident, and eager to achieve success. The skills gap is not unique to the world of post-secondary education, but by taking strides to close important information gaps we can better empower students to understand their skills and how they translate professionally, and to help graduates explore all the professional opportunities available.
RBC Upskill helps students and graduates get useful recommendations that match their skills to the jobs of tomorrow. For more information, or to try out this resource yourself, please visit RBCUpskill.ca.