Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Kevin James Bogan knew it was time to shake up his career.

Like thousands in hospitality, the Toronto-based bar manager was laid off in March as COVID-19 derailed the industry. To pass the time, he got back into drawing – something he’d rarely done since graduating from OCAD University about 15 years ago.

His ambitions snowballed, and within weeks Mr. Bogan enrolled in a 16-month online program at the Think Tank Training Centre, a Vancouver-based school for visual effects and animation. The goal, once he’s finished, is to secure a job in the motion-picture or video-game industries.

Story continues below advertisement

“Some people are taking [the pandemic] as an opportunity,” he said. “I tried to rise to that challenge instead of sitting around day to day, doing nothing.”

He’s not alone. Faced with long-term unemployment, and a murky timeline of return, thousands of Canadians have decided there’s no better time than a pandemic to pivot careers, enrolling in education and training that should bolster their résumés in a post-crisis job market.

It’s a typical recession response. Following the financial crisis, postsecondary enrolment in Canada jumped 6 per cent in the 2009-10 academic year, Statistics Canada data show.

This time around, there are early signs of a pandemic bump. Total enrolment last fall was slightly higher than the previous year, driven by part-timers, according to a preliminary survey of nearly 100 universities. And that excludes a number of options, including colleges and some aspects of continuing education programs.

On that front, several universities are seeing a spike of interest. For instance, the Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University in Toronto said its winter intake of adult learners was 10 per cent higher than a year earlier. Data analytics, occupational health and safety, and business management are especially popular programs.

Jenn Miller of Mississauga was part of last fall’s cohort. After close to two decades at global charity World Vision Canada, she was temporarily laid off in March. The furlough dragged on and she volunteered to leave. Eager to move into a leadership position, but lacking experience, Ms. Miller enrolled in a certificate program in non-profit management.

“You need experience in order to do a job, but you can’t get a job until you have that experience,” she said. “Sometimes education can fill a little bit of that gap.”

Story continues below advertisement

For others, the pandemic is an opportunity to hit the reset button.

Alex Cleyn of Toronto had mulled a career change for years. Then last spring, she was laid off from a marketing job – the second time that’s happened in her young career. “I was a bit fed up being a marketer, where I’m always expendable when the business doesn’t do well,” she said. “I wanted to do something where I worked for myself.”

With little hesitation, Ms. Cleyn enrolled in the real estate sales agent program at Humber College in Toronto. She was able to rip through her courses and get licensed within months, just as the Toronto property market was running hot. “I’m probably working more than I ever have in my life,” she said, with 14-hour days being typical.

Patrick Rafter of Regina had worked in hospitality for eight years – most recently, as general manager of a restaurant, and co-owner of another. Now, he’s taking online accounting courses through B.C.-based Thompson Rivers University and applying for public-sector positions. He figures the skills acquired in restaurants – from managing payroll to dealing with human-resources issues – will translate well into his next career.

“There’s a lot of learning that goes into starting a small business and being an entrepreneur, and you’re going to take that with you in whatever you do,” he said. “Once I get the [job] interview, I think I’d be able to kill it.”

To be sure, the process of labour reallocation could be lengthy and complicated, given the severity of job losses in the pandemic. As of January, there were roughly 1.9 million people who fit Statistics Canada’s definition of unemployed – largely, that one must be available and searching for work. More than half a million of those were unemployed for more than six months. Another 700,000 people wanted work but weren’t actively looking.

Story continues below advertisement

The opportunities that await are fuzzy. The second wave of COVID-19 is battering companies anew and threatening their long-term viability. While business insolvencies have actually declined in the pandemic – thanks to unprecedented fiscal support – the fear is that closings will ramp up as government-funded life support winds down.

Another uncertainty is what training options will look like. In his new mandate letter to Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for “the largest investment in Canadian history in training for workers,” along with “immediate training to quickly up-skill workers.”

Making a career change doesn’t necessarily mean starting from scratch. That’s part of the guiding philosophy at Palette, a Toronto-based non-profit that works with companies to create skills-training programs – and ultimately, to connect them with job candidates they might otherwise overlook.

In speaking with tech companies, Palette learned they not only needed data scientists and other high-skill positions, but people to sell software. As a result, Palette offers an intensive program in sales training, which has drawn people from the hard-hit retail and hospitality industries. By the end of the program, many of the participating employers have already set up job interviews with trainees.

“Canada has a phenomenal, highly skilled work force,” said AJ Tibando, executive director at Palette. “It’s not necessarily that these skills aren’t out there. It’s that they’re not being found in the right way.”

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies