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Employers hiring university grads for more entry-level jobs

With 1 out of 2 new grads either unemployed and underemployed, what does this mean for the economy, this year's graduates and beyond

Save up for that student loan. More employers are selecting college grads for entry-level, lower-skill jobs, according to a new CareerBuilder study.

Thirty-six per cent of the 400 employers surveyed across Canada said they’re hiring more employees with post-secondary education for positions that have been historically held by high-school graduates.

Of the employers who hired university graduates, most reported positive impacts on their business in the forms of:

  • Higher quality of work – 76 per cent

  • Productivity – 45 per cent

  • Revenue – 23 per cent and

  • Customer loyalty – 17 per cent

Stricter requirements

One in four employers said they’ve increased educational requirements for jobs over the last five years, with 59 per cent reporting that they require a two-year degree or higher for their positions and 45 per cent wanting a four-year degree or higher.

Plus, 41 per cent of employers said they’re unlikely to promote someone who doesn't have a college degree.

“What this reflects is a rising proportion of young people who have university or even community college degrees relative to a generation ago,” says CIBC managing director and chief economist Avery Shenfeld.

“The result is that employers can be more picky and use the attainment of a degree as a signal of intelligence, ability and hard work even for positions that do not require any of the knowledge acquired after secondary school. Where once a high-school degree could be used as a signal of accomplishment, now a post-secondary degree is required to separate oneself from the pack, simply due to the higher share of the population getting these additional qualifications."

And it appears, the benchmark is also shifting for those with graduate degrees or professional designations.

“Financial institutions can fill positions with MBA grads that previously required only an undergrad degree," Shenfeld adds.

However, this isn’t necessarily good news for the Canadian economy.

“Young Canadians are spending more time out of the labour force and allocating more dollars to obtain degrees only for this signalling purpose and not necessarily becoming more productive workers in the process,” Shenfeld notes.

Landing a dream job (or just any job)

Alan Kearns, founder of CareerJoy — a career coaching company with locations across Canada -- says the days of graduating from college then sending out hundreds of resumes are gone.

“What you need to do is create, not wait,” Kearns says. “You really have to change the mindset and create opportunities and not wait for opportunities. We’ve moved to a world where there’s far more supply than demand in pretty much most professions, other than physicians.

“People who create don’t send resumes out. They’re finding opportunities that aren’t public. They’re volunteering at places they want to work at, they’re pitching to their networks. If they are sending out resumes, they’re setting up a YouTube channel with a specific video for follow-up.

“It’s a fundamental rethink,” he adds. “People always ask, How do I make my resume stand out? It’s the wrong question. It’s ‘How do I create opportunity rather than waiting for the market to create opportunity on my behalf.”

Think like a brand

Business schools teach strategy and branding; those are approaches that job seekers need to latch on to as well (and that should be taught in high school).

“Look at Dr. Oz,” Kearns says. “He’s created a brand." That same marketing mentality applies to your own job search.

"If you’re a financial analyst or a lawyer wanting to get a job, you’ll think like a brand and use Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn to start to create your own opportunities -- and better opportunities.

“If you act like a commodity, you will be treated like a commodity.”

Pursue your passion

American mythologist Joseph Campbell was right. Follow your bliss and the rest will fall in line.

“Figure out your place,” Kearns says. “What are you great at? We can only think like a brand in stuff we’re truly interested in because it’s hard work. It’s rewarding, but it’s also very difficult. Where people go wrong is looking for what they think they’re going to make money in and not what they love.”