The pandemic has been tough, but Canada’s Top Employers for Young People offer a lot of support
As nearly everyone who is not a shareholder of Zoom Video Communications Inc. has said at some point, 2020 was an awful year. Amid a tragic pandemic, it was especially tough for many young people looking for a job. And yet – there were silver linings, too, which are continuing well into 2021 and beyond.
If you talk to winners of the Canada’s Top Employers for Young People 2021 competition, you learn that many managed to keep intact their programs for young people, such as internships and co-ops, and run them virtually. Among them was RBC, one of the country’s biggest employers, with 1,400 summer students globally. Another was KPMG LLP (Canada), the Toronto-based professional services firm, which turned on a dime to create an on-screen internship and co-op program.
“We normally bring on over 250 interns each year,” says Nicole Tomassetti, KPMG’s director of national talent attraction strategy. “In March it became very clear that we would not be having a normal internship, meaning the students coming to the office and then going out on client work. So we took the opportunity to give them a learning and development internship, virtually.” At the end, every participant was offered a role at KPMG for 2021.
But Tomassetti also saw the fallout from the awful year and its impact on young job-seekers. “When we went through our fall recruiting campaign, we had all the almost double the applicants that we had in our previous year,” she says. “There are a lot of companies that cancelled their internships and cancelled their full-time career opportunities. It’s a lot more competitive.”
Although vaccines, of course, are now rolling out in Canada, the end of the pandemic is still a long way away. So the virtual programs continue at many major employers, along with virtual recruitment interviews, virtual onboarding, and virtual networking once you’ve been hired. In fact, it is a regular refrain among Top Employer leaders that even when it’s all over, they expect a “hybrid” system to develop. As more offices re-open, people may still spend a lot of their time working from home.
That may be one of the silver linings for new recruits, notes Kristina Leung, senior editor for Mediacorp Canada, which holds the competition. “I think it will encourage organizations to adopt more flexible policies, and young people have always voiced an appreciation for the flexibility of being able to work where you’re most effective and efficient,” she says. “Sometimes that happens to be at home and sometimes in the office, depending on the nature of the work.”
Moreover, the current cohort of young graduates, who were born shortly before the new millennium, can all be considered digital natives. The internet surrounded them as they grew up, and the Apple iPhone has been with them since 2007. So to a generation reared on texting and Facetime, virtual work is not as odd as it may seem to older staff. Mediacorp assistant editor Stephanie Leung, who collaborated on the project and graduated in 2015, says she even found taking phone calls a bit tricky when she first made the transition from school to work. “We’ve grown up being very, very digital,” she says. “If you’re going from a very casual environment to something more structured and corporate, it isn’t always easy to make that jump. I think employers are recognizing that and creating supports that will help with the transition.”
Kristina Leung says that Top Employers are focusing on how to make strong connections with their younger hires, especially in the onboarding and orientation process. “They’re making sure that folks feel connected, find buddies and peers, and are able to chat informally, which may be as important as the onboarding. People are interacting in a much more personal way than in the office – you may see someone’s child or pet on camera in the background.”
Employers, she adds, are stressing capacity building – expanding the soft skills that may be better suited to a fast-changing world. “That was definitely reflected in our applicant pool this year,” she says. “It’s not entirely specific to a role but overall capacity building that will enable the individual and the organization to be more agile, to have people with all types of skills that they can adapt to an environment such as the one that we’re currently in.” She notes, for example, that many organizations use case competitions as a means of developing critical thinking and other skills that can be applied in many situations.
KPMG’s Tomassetti offers another potential silver lining for young job-seekers – there’s a bigger playing field. “If a company’s doing an information session, sign up. You don’t even have to travel. You can attend things happening in Vancouver even if you live in Toronto.” But research to find the right employer is key, she notes. “What hasn’t changed is that everything you had to do before to get a job, you still have to do in this virtual world.”
– Berton Woodward
This story appeared in the official announcement for Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2021), published on January 19, 2021.
- ABB Canada
- Aboriginal Peoples Television Network Inc. / APTN
- Accenture Inc.
- AIG Insurance Company of Canada
- Alberta Health Services / AHS
- AMD / Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.
- ArcelorMittal Dofasco G.P.
- BC Hydro
- BC Public Service
- Bell Canada
- Bennett Jones LLP
- BlackBerry Limited
- Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
- Boston Consulting Group of Canada Limited
- Bruce Power LP
- Cactus Restaurants Ltd.
- Canada Revenue Agency / CRA
- Capital One Canada
- Capital Power Corporation
- CGI Inc.
- Cisco Systems Canada Co.
- Citi Canada
- CoLab Software Inc.
- Communications Security Establishment / CSE
- Corus Entertainment Inc.
- D2L Corporation
- DeltaWare Systems Inc.
- Dentons Canada LLP
- Department of Finance Canada
- Desjardins Group / Mouvement Desjardins
- Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc
- Edmonton, City of
- Emera Inc.
- Employment and Social Development Canada
- EPCOR Utilities Inc.
- Fednav Limited
- Fidelity Canada
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard
- FL Fuller Landau LLP
- Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited
- Giants & Gentlemen Advertising Inc.
- Hatch Ltd.
- Health Canada / Santé Canada
- Hemmera Envirochem Inc.
- Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
- Hospital for Sick Children, The
- House of Commons Administration
- Hydro Ottawa
- Northwestel Inc.
- Nunavut, Government of
- Nutrien Inc.
- PCL Construction
- PepsiCo Canada
- Pharmascience Inc.
- Procter & Gamble Inc.
- Prophix Software Inc.
- Providence Health Care
- R.F. Binnie & Associates Ltd.
- Rio Tinto
- Rogers Communications Inc.
- Royal Bank of Canada
- Samsung Electronics Canada Inc.
- SAP Canada Inc.
- Schneider Electric Canada Inc.
- Siemens Canada Limited
- Sinai Health
- Stanley Black & Decker Canada Corp.
- Statistics Canada
- Surrey, City of