Student Hiring Trends in Canada by TECHNATION
As TECHNATION Career Ready Senior Program Coordinators, Heather McGilvary (Western Canada) and Talusier Lasalle (Quebec and Atlantic Canada) are the go-to resources for employers in their regions looking to subsidize their student work placements.
Part of their job is coordinating with interested businesses and post-secondary institutions about the Career Ready Program, and identifying how to qualify for the program’s wage subsidies. When they’re not doing that, they’re developing relationships with business associations and accelerators or incubators—anywhere that has access to networks of businesses to spread more information about the numerous benefits of the Career Ready Program. They also review the Career Ready funding applications that come through from across the country.
Needless to say, Heather and Talusier have a pulse on the Canadian student recruitment market.
We sat down with both Senior Program Coordinators to talk about hiring trends and opportunities in their regions. Here’s what they had to say:
Q: What are common tech jobs that you’re seeing students in Canada being hired for?
T: Most of the positions that we fund are for programming or coding, but since the program and businesses are more open to positions that are not necessarily in science or engineering, a lot of the positions that we are helping fund are for roles in marketing, managing e-commerce and even social media. Because they’re tech-related, they qualify. We’re also seeing a lot of roles opening up for students in business.
H: I’m witnessing the IT industry flourish with the support of students. For example, many students out of Camosun College are being hired into software development internships, and a significant number of Concordia University of Edmonton students are supporting operations management positions. There’s also an Okanagan College student rocking a systems administrator position, and a UVic student designing safety devices related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The sector I’ve been so excited to work within Western Canada is non-profits. They’re finding great value in hiring students for their social media and digital communications expertise, and for innovative and strategic business initiatives, such as process improvement or digitizing resources that were once all stored in paper format.
Q: What industries are you seeing benefiting from Career Ready funding in your region?
T: We focus a lot of our efforts on promoting the program to small and medium enterprise groups. I’ve been seeing applications from the textile industry in Quebec specifically. But the program’s biggest industry is definitely developers, whether it’s video games or apps.
H: Start-ups, Agri-tech and non-profits are benefitting most in my region.
I work with several start-ups. There are so many amazing innovation hubs in Western Canada, like Innovate Calgary—who supplies technology transfer and business incubator services in southern Alberta’s tech sector. Many people don’t know that Edmonton is one of the most prosperous cities for new tech companies. They really take off and thrive.
In the agri-tech industry, Olds College is really leading the way in Canada—and globally—with research and development in the agriculture, horticulture, land and environmental management sectors. For example, a student studying precision agriculture was hired to oversee the technology integration and variable rate nutrient application on a farm to maximize crop growth.
The cannabis industry is also growing and leveraging the program, and the tourism industry on the West Coast and in the Yukon is exploring new ways of operating during the pandemic with the help of tech.
Q: What’s a unique work placement that a Canadian business has hired for?
T: One interesting example is from the National Institute for Sport, a non-profit that supports Olympic athletes. They hired a student studying cognitive neuroscience to assist in coordinating a research project to improve performance for the national women’s water polo team.
H: One non-profit that we work with employs students to connect with remote and Indigenous communities to identify families and children in need of emergency vision appointments. They then virtually connect those individuals with a doctor. It’s also been an extraordinary pleasure to see online counselling services and novel companies emerge in these difficult times. The ingenuity and resourcefulness that can be brought forward with the support of a student never fails to amaze me.
For example, a student studying precision agriculture was hired to oversee the technology integration and variable rate nutrient application on a farm to maximize crop growth—the need for this student’s expertise astounded me.
Q: What roles or purposes are most companies hiring students for?
T: Typically, employers see students as either a way to get a specific task or project done, or to bring in some extra help to get a bigger project done. We see that in the coding world, where they’ll bring in extra brainpower to write more lines of code to finish a project. The data analysis job for the national water polo team is a good example of a placement that’s really focused on a particular project.
H: I think the digital savviness of students really shines through when employers turn to them to develop social media and digital communication strategies. Students are immersed daily in tech and social media—they’ve never known a time without it. So, they bring a really incredible perspective to any company—whether they’re supporting social media, IT, data analytics or any other aspect of tech.
Q: Talusier, what would you say to employers in Quebec and Eastern Canada who haven’t used the Career Ready Program yet?
T: I think that they’re missing out on an incredible opportunity to bring in fresh ideas, and some really motivated people who want to make a difference as they start their career, for a fraction of the cost. Employers are allowed to stack our subsidy with provincial tax credits or subsidies, and when you put those two together, the savings can be substantial—almost free in some cases.
We also encourage businesses to create their own talent pipeline through the Career Ready Program. If they hire a student or two every year and keep in contact with those students after they finish their placement period, the employer can pick them when hiring. There’s a great benefit to that because it’s going to be easier to attract talent.
Q: Heather, are there any industries not accessing Career Ready funding that could really benefit from it?
H: In my opinion, some of the more traditional businesses are struggling with technology and don’t realize that there is help and support for them through programs like Career Ready. If a small family-owned restaurant was able to build an online presence, I do believe it could alleviate some pressures of COVID-19 restrictions.
Q: When do employers typically hire students, and when do they apply for Career Ready funding?
T: We have three placement periods in the year: fall (September-December), winter (January-April) and summer (May-August). The biggest by far is the summer period, as you would expect. We opened applications at the beginning of February, but April is probably the busiest time—I’m receiving a lot of inquiries from employers and a lot of demand to be put in contact with career services. We work on a first-come, first-served basis, so the sooner employers apply, the better.
Canadian students can be helpful assets to grow your company, and thanks to federal wage subsidies for work-integrated learning, the risk and cost to employers is minimal. The TECHNATION Career Ready Program provides wage subsidies for hiring students in tech-immersive roles—and it’s not just tech companies that qualify. Students can be hired to manage social media, optimize agricultural practices, and more.
“I’m here to support employers throughout the application process. Although the process is very easy and streamlined, it is great to have someone like myself or Tal who they can reach out to at any time to provide exemplary customer support,” says Heather.
Talusier explains that he and Heather can also help employers find students to hire by referring them to the career services of colleges, cégeps and universities. “We have direct contact with these post-secondary institutions, so I can easily put the employer in contact with a number of schools in their region,” he says, adding that employers can go to a portal called Campus Connect, where they can explain what they need in a form, which is then sent to the career services at the appropriate post-secondary institution.
If your business operates in Western Canada and you want to learn more about the program, Heather can help you. And if you’re in Quebec or Eastern Canada, contact Talusier for more information—or, visit our Employer Information Page.