Emerson Csorba, Eric Termuende and Josh Vanderleest help lead Gen Y Inc., a workplace culture consultancy with operations in Edmonton, Calgary and London.
As long-time Alberta residents, we've become well acquainted with the energy industry through the endless barrage of stories focusing on our boom-and-bust cycles and our need to diversify. Indeed, the sector is a testament to ingenuity, and it is a Canadian strength just as it is an Albertan one. Not surprisingly, both the University of Alberta and University of Calgary each produce more oil executives than any other universities in North America, according to a recent study conducted by Dallas-based Pearson Partners International.
However, in focusing too narrowly on a single industry, Canadians – and young professionals in particular – run the risk of overlooking sectors with equally impressive long-career prospects. At our consultancy, we have become accustomed to seeing Canada's great young talents enter traditional sectors: oil and gas, consulting, finance, law, government and accounting. Although these each come with unique advantages for young professionals, several other industries – forestry, manufacturing and agriculture – are also worth exploring. These sectors hold tremendous promise.
- According to the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC, a past client of ours), Canada will require 60,000 new workers in the forest and pulp industry by 2020.
- In Alberta, just 7.3 per cent of the agriculture work force is under the age of 35, based on a recent report published by the provincial Agriculture Minister’s Next Generation Advisory Council.
- Canadian manufacturing is also suffering from a talent crisis: Although it has enjoyed a comeback of sorts in recent years, too few young Canadians are entering the sector, a challenge raised in the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters 2014 Management Issues Survey.
Each of these sectors is replete with opportunity, and waiting for hard-working, opportunistic and well-rounded Canadians to take them by storm. Young Canadians entering these industries will be offered many opportunities for early and consistent professional development.
In agriculture, for instance, GPS precision technologies and drones are revolutionizing how work is done. Urban agriculture is becoming a thriving industry, with young farmers able to manage their farms through mobile devices. With the value of the loonie down in recent months, forestry is thriving, with companies such as Vancouver-based West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. benefiting as a result. The Greenest Workforce Campaign, designed and implemented by FPAC, is working to engage young Canadians in the sector and demonstrate the long-term business prospects in Canada.
But managers in these sectors traditionally address work force issues and talent attraction only when problems become evident and can no longer be pushed to the side. Although operational efficiency is important in increasingly complex businesses involving global supply chains, the work force is transforming rapidly: In 2020, more than half of the Canadian work force will be made up of millennials (those currently between the ages of 20 and 35). This is the cohort that believes in business with purpose, where the most innovative companies are, in the words of Unilever chief executive officer Paul Polman, "moving from share value to shared values, where business sees itself as part of society, not separate from it."
These three sectors are positioned to better engage talented young Canadians. Yet if these industries are to succeed and help drive Canada's reputation as a global business power, then management must think more proactively about its next generation of leaders and managers.
In order for these sectors to be seen as destinations, company managers must position careers as professions – focused on knowledge, long-term prospects and thrilling opportunities, rather than simply on practical, hands-on work.
Without this, the most talented millennials will continue to pursue traditional careers – default options such as law, consulting and finance. The opportunity for change is clearly there, and Canada is primed to be a global leader in these sectors. It's on management to fundamentally rethink its views on work, careers and recruitment in their respective sectors.