Although the pandemic has upended the way we work, few Canadians are seeking advice about their careers compared with people in peer countries.
Just 19 per cent of Canadian adults have used career services in the past five years, compared with 43 per cent of adults in Chile, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand and the United States, according to a recent study, and there has been no spike in demand since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The study, conducted by the research non-profit Labour Market Information Council (LMIC) and Ryerson University’s Future Skills Centre, asked 3,000 Canadians about their career service experience through two online surveys. Career services range from government-run employment centres to private providers, such as career coaches.
According to researchers, the study raised concerns that many Canadians don’t know what careers services are or how to access them at a time when many have experienced employment changes as a result of the pandemic.
After “one of the biggest disruptions that we’ve seen in the labour market in modern history, you would think that there would be a spike in the use of career services, but we didn’t see that,” said Tony Bonen, director of research, data and analytics at LMIC.
Mr. Bonen said it wasn’t clear why Canadians were using career services less than in those in other countries, and in particular when compared with the United States, where service use was twice that of Canada despite the two countries seeing similar unemployment rates throughout the pandemic.
Some say that Canada’s lower numbers could be due to a cultural difference compared with other countries, where seeking career advice could be seen as more socially acceptable.
“To me, this speaks to a disconnect in the system,” said Candy Ho, assistant professor of career development at the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, who says that seeking help should be a regular part of a person’s career progression. “I think getting career guidance shouldn’t be an afterthought – if anything, the pandemic has taught us ... we cannot predict the future.”
According to Mr. Bonen, the findings will be useful in helping to better understand how to reach those not currently using career services. According to the survey, among those who had not used career services in the past five years, 42 per cent said they did not feel the need to. Twenty-one per cent said they weren’t aware the services existed, while 6 per cent said that child-care responsibilities made finding time impossible.
Men, those with postsecondary education, urban residents and immigrants were among those more likely to use career services in Canada, the study found.
One area where career services could be more widely used is with young people who did not receive postsecondary education. According to the study, adults with postsecondary education were 12 percentage points more likely to have accessed career support than their peers without postsecondary education. In light of employment trends seen during the pandemic, Mr. Bonen said this highlights a gap that the career-services sector should strive to fill.
“Job losses were concentrated among those with lower education levels, working in lower-paid jobs, so you expect those folks to be seeking the most support. It speaks to where the outreach and promotion of the available services can best be targeted,” Mr. Bonen said.
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