3 Insights on Preparing Canada’s Workforce and Employers Post-Pandemic

By Erica Ormiston

We know COVID-19 has changed the landscape of the economy. We also know it’s more crucial than ever to prepare those entering the workforce一and the businesses that hire them一so they can succeed in their careers following the pandemic.

A few weeks ago, VFC participated in a webinar on this very topic. Workforce Central Canada brought together a panel of industry leaders from post-secondary education, labour market research, workforce boards, and youth initiatives to discuss how employers need to innovate their hiring processes to remain competitive, and how we have to prepare the next generation of Canada’s workforce. Here are our three major takeaways from the panel of experts:

1. Students and Grads: Focus on what skills Employers are seeking right now

If you’re in the market for a job right now, employers are typically looking for two sets of skills.

The first set are called ‘foundational skills’. Sometimes they’re referred to as ‘transferable skills’. At VFC, we call them ‘future-proof skills’, because they are relevant and adaptable to so many jobs today and in the future. Examples of transferable skills employers are seeking right now are leadership, management, design thinking, problem solving, communication, and resilience.

The second set of skills are generally called technical skills. For example, the specific coding languages that developers need to work at business X or Y. Each year LinkedIn produces a list of the top skills employers are looking for, based on the thousands of jobs posted on the LinkedIn platform annually. Based on 2020 recruitment data, employers are looking for  understanding and experience in various technology platforms, softwares and tools that support work-from-home. This can be anything from Zoom video calling expertice, CRM and database management, to industry-specific software.

Jake Hirsh-Allen, Workforce Development and Higher Ed System Lead at Linkedin, emphasized the importance of properly showcasing both your transferable and technical competencies on your resume and Linkedin profile. By showcasing both skill sets, you make it easy for employers that are seeking candidates just like you to find and interview you.

Here’s a good guide on how to showcase your key skills — and remember to keep them relevant. There’s no point in showcasing technical skills from five years ago that aren’t a priority anymore. If you want to be sure something’s a priority, scan job postings that you’re interested in and look for consistent “must have” skills.

2. Employers: Job descriptions should focus on skills versus job duties

As we start to enter a business recovery period in Canada, every business is trying to do more with less. From a hiring perspective, that starts with reducing the number of weak applicants you have to sift through to find candidates you really want to interview.

According to Workforce panelists, that means focusing your 2020 job postings on skills versus job duties. Ultimately it’s the skills that a candidate possesses that will determine whether they can perform the job duties. We’ve learned this over six internship cohorts and by coaching our partner employers in their hiring process to consider the skills the students have developed from their extracurriculars or previous jobs, in addition to what they study at school.

But for small to medium sized businesses, leading their job descriptions with the skills needed isn’t so common. The biggest reason is the lack of HR support in smaller businesses, leaving the job description wordsmithing to inexperienced employers.

Employers looking to succeed in hiring post-pandemic will need to adapt and translate job tasks to skills in order to hire the best suited candidates. Here’s more on how employers can begin skill-based hiring.

3. Post-Secondary Teaching and Job Prep will need to adapt

While every post-secondary school in Canada has had to move classes online since March, colleges and polytechnics, that have traditionally emphasized hands-on learning through lab work and applied learning, will be particularly challenged as students return to school virtually in the Fall. Students studying in programs with large amounts of hands-on learning will have to find alternatives so they can feel prepared when they graduate.

This is why work-integrated learning (WIL) through cooperative education, internships and work terms is more important than ever. WIL gives students the hands-on experience they can’t get in an online classroom. Graduating students that participate in WIL have a competitive advantage over those that don’t participate, because WIL gives an extra boost to a students resume, which is extremely important in their early careers. Not only does it add more experience to showcase on their resume, it also connects students to employers for future job prospects post-graduation.

There are other options for recent grads, like NEXT Canada or the Venture for Canada Fellowship, which is a bridging program for post-secondary graduates looking to work in Canadian startups. VFC students in our Internship Program that want to continue working with their employer post-graduation are encouraged to join the Fellowship, so they combine their hands on work experience with the entrepreneurial skill development offered in the VFC Fellowship Program.

Final Thoughts

To prepare for the future of work, students and recent grads looking for their next job should take the time to identify and showcase the variety of transferable or technical skills they bring to the table. On the flipside, employers need to revamp their job descriptions to speak directly to the skills required for the position and candidate to thrive. Finally, to adapt to less hands-on, in-person learning, students should participate in work-integrated learning and gain that valuable, practical and competitive experience while they’re still in school.

There are lots of ways students can gain job experience whether it through this local university, or programs like Venture for Canada’s Internship Program. We have one of many programs that supports students in WIL.

Workforce Central Canada is a collaborative effort across industry, workforce and education organizations to support Canada’s workforce development. For more information on future webinars, check out their site.