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Google retained the position of most attractive employer among Canadian students studying business and engineering for the second year, according to Universum, which surveyed students in 40 countries over all.Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Canadian millennials place a greater value on the workplace culture of a prospective employer than do young people in other countries, a new study has found.

The survey of about 33,000 students in 108 postsecondary schools across the country sought their opinions on job preferences in categories such as pay and advancement, and reputation and image.

The results show that Canadian students place a higher importance on the people and culture category than their foreign counterparts, according to researchers.

"We're almost reinforcing a stereotype there," said Jason Kipps, managing director for Universum Canada, an employer branding firm that conducted the survey. "We think of Canadians as being friendly, and the aggregate second-biggest driver is having a friendly work environment, right after a creative and dynamic environment – when you look at the entire student population."

The research aims to rank employers on their appeal to future candidates, showing companies how they stack up compared with other firms competing for top talent.

Google Inc. retained the position of most attractive employer among Canadian students studying business and engineering for the second year, according to Universum, which surveyed students in 40 countries over all.

For business students, a fondness for Google is followed closely by accounting giant Ernst & Young, and the Government of Canada.

Part of the reason the Government of Canada ranks so high on the list is because of the sheer number and range of employment opportunities, since it encompasses work environments from Revenue Canada to the RCMP to the Canadian Forces, among others. And with the North American economy still in recovery, students may also associate working for the government with long-term security.

But job security is not their only consideration. "I think students are starting to transition and are thinking a little less, as we move forward, about security," Mr. Kipps said. He added that students are now saying, "I want to get out there, and I want to kill it. And I want to make lots of money."

This thinking may have helped drive some international financial companies such as Barclays PLC and JPMorgan Chase & Co. up the charts. Meanwhile, the ranking of almost all of the safer, consumer-facing Canadian banks and insurers fell in this year's ranking.

"Our hypothesis is that this is an association with higher future earnings potential, not necessarily just the association of security with working for a bank," Mr. Kipps said. Although culture is important, business students prize the potential for high future earnings and professional advancement above all other factors.

Outside of Google, the tech sector failed to win as many votes from students. Waterloo, Ont.-based BlackBerry Ltd., which laid off hundreds of employees in the past year, fell 46 places down the list to land at the 98th employer of choice for business students. It was in the 53rd spot for engineers. Over all, the tech sector was considerably less popular with students than in previous years, the researchers found.

"This is one of the things that was most surprising to me," said Kevin Troy, head of research and insights for Universum's Americas unit. "I was expecting to see a drop in BlackBerry, but not other firms in the sector," he said. He noted that telecom and consumer electronics employers also fell significantly.

Industries such as automotive have stepped in to capture some of those new tech graduates with programs that focus on robotics or computer programming, Mr. Troy said.

Millennials have a reputation for bouncing from job to job, but the research shows that's not the intention of today's students. "The expectation in terms of how long students anticipate staying in their first career, with their first employer, has changed from an average of two years to five years," Mr. Kipps said.

Mr. Kipps also offers a key piece of advice to employers: Don't try to be everything to everyone. Companies need to understand "what is compelling about your organization and how you can express that in a unique way that will differentiate from others – everybody wants to say they're 'innovative.' It isn't enough."

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