Life After Post-Secondary
Written by Han Slater
Nothing in this world could prepare you for the gauntlet that is post-secondary. The reality is that post-secondary education is all-consuming and will attempt to swallow your sanity. Depending on the length of your degree, the workload, living conditions, and mental health going into post-secondary, it can be overwhelming. There is something cathartic, though, when you finally cross the finish line, you shed the stress and worries of university life, a sense of relief that you will never have to endure such a life again. The rushing freight train that is the obligations of real life and the reality of the workforce interrupts the euphoria. With a comprehensive university or college education, the workforce should be an easy minefield to traverse, right? Post-secondary education opens doors to jobs that were previously shut. Post-secondary education is becoming a shining beacon of hope that will lead you to a successful career and life. The reality that faces most people that graduate from post-secondary is grueling hours of work, fields not associated with their studies, and lack of benefits or none at all. The reality is that students graduating in a post-pandemic world are fearful for their future careers and lives (Frenette, Handler, & Chan, 2021). A reasonable concern considering the job market has been in recovery for years, and the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a record high of youth and young adult unemployment at 29.4% (Frenette, Handler, & Chan, 2021). How does one stay hopeful going into the workforce? With a decrease in jobs because of the pandemic, will there be a stable return to Canada’s economy? When leaving post-secondary, many questions come to mind, and the looming anxiety of re-entering society hangs heavy. This article will review the challenges students face in re-entering the workforce. A disclaimer will be placed here that conversations surrounding the pandemic of Covid-19, the Freedom Convoy of 2022, discrimination, and mental illness will be explored in this article; if this exhausts you, dear reader, please, take time for yourself before reading on.
After three years of the Covid-19 pandemic, the fourth year is upon Canadians, and the constantly mutating virus forces everyone to adapt or sink. According to the University of Alberta’s Dr. Lynora Saxinger, hospitalizations are on the retreat, but the virus mutates and brings death and disabling conditions (Kaufmann, 2023). With this in mind, how does the Canadian economy continue to adapt to a constantly changing situation? Humans can handle much more than people give them credit; having no knowledge of Covid-19, expediting effective vaccines is a testament to humanity’s technological advancements (Lee, 2023). However, advancements for humanity meant a loss of trust and suspicion around individuals that took steps to work in their chosen field of study. Timothy Caufield is a Canada Research Chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta. He speculates that revisionist history is altering the reality of the last three years of the pandemic (Lee, 2023). In an interview with Jennifer Lee from CBC News, Caufield ruminates on whether “governments will have the political will to act if a new pathogen emerges” (Lee, 2023). The following is a direct quote from Caufield from Lee’s article “Three years later: What has COVID-19 taught us, and are we ready for the next big threat?”
“There’s so much distrust now. There’s just so much polarization. There’s so much leveraging of uncertain science to really foster distrust in an unjustified manner that it leaves us in a very vulnerable position.”
Truthfully, in my biased opinion, Caufield is correct. After the Freedom Convoy of 2022 drove down to eastern Canada and parked at Parliament Hill, it became a symbol of distrust and civil unrest within Canada. Despite the convoy being smaller in actual numbers, consisting of only 3,000 big rigs and 15,000 anti-vaccine protestors, the significance of the Convoy left a lasting impression on Canadians because of their strange, illegal, and discriminatory display of protesting in Ottawa (n.a., 2022). It is reasonable to determine that when another wave of Covid-19 strikes, or a different strain of a virus, governments will have a more challenging time managing the public and its policies. However, how does this affect the job market and students leaving post-secondary?
Whatever one’s beliefs about vaccinations are, many jobs require individuals to have at least two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. Especially if one is to work for the government or local municipalities, two doses of the vaccine is a minimum requirement for job postings. Many may ask why they must be vaccinated to work in governmental systems. It is because most of these positions require close interaction with the public and work with the departmental team that they are applying to. It is reasonable for people not to want to be sick or exposed to sickness in the workplace, and employees and employers are responsible for providing a safe work environment. However, not all job sites require two vaccine doses against Covid-19, and many jobs in the job market do not require proof of vaccination. This is not to take a stance on how the job market should or should not run, but rather this is something that students graduating may face upon re-entering the workforce.
Credentials and Experience
Now that university or college is over, the world is open to you and is meant to be explored with curiosity and a heart full of confidence. It would be if the supposedly open door of opportunity did not lead to a brick wall of confusion and doubt. The problem most graduates face in the workforce is the requirement for experience. Jobs that were supposedly open are gated by the requirements of already having working experience in the field. If one has the credentials and the gumption to commit to a job, should that not be enough to give that individual a chance? According to an article by Kate Morgan of the British Broadcasting Corporation, an analysis of close to 4 million jobs posted on LinkedIn since late 2017 showed that 35% of postings for “entry-level” positions asked for years of prior relevant work experience (Morgan, 2021). That requirement was even more common in specific industries (Morgan, 2021). Over 60% of entry-level software and IT services job listings require three or more years of experience. In short, entry-level jobs seem not for people just entering the workforce, a strange and backward reality for post-undergraduate students (Morgan, 2021). Attempting to start in an entry-level job is not feasible for many now, despite its entry-level title. According to Morgan, an ever-growing market for internships and students wanting to build their work experience while still in post-secondary education has been increasing. While this is not necessarily bad, many students sacrifice their mental and physical health, trying to balance work, full-time studies, a social life, and their home lives. So this begs the question of what is more important while in school. Is it more important to gain work experience while in school? Or, is it more important to focus on one’s studies and time in post-secondary? I leave this question open to you, dear reader, to discuss amongst your peers and for your consideration.
As Covid-19 policies continue to change and cases reported fluctuate, the job market and the flow of students entering and exiting school will also vary. This article may have provided some daunting insight into the job market and the reality that many young people may struggle after returning to society after spending years in the academic world. I hope not to daunt you or intimidate you, dear reader, but rather inform you of the struggles I wished I would have been enlightened to before re-entering society. Covid has altered how the job market will run, and people’s workplace expectations have changed. Some workplaces are more lenient, and some are unreasonable in their expectations. Some workplaces offer bare minimum working hours to be classified as part-time, and some are called part-time and will work you forty hours a week with minimum pay and no benefits. Some of these things are not new, and some conditions have worsened or improved because of the Covid-19 pandemic. I implore you to remember your worth and that life has more to offer than simply working in a rotten environment. Know your worth, and demonstrate it for those to see when re-entering society because you paid for expensive schooling to play in the game that is the workforce.
(2022). “Timeline of the ‘Freedom Convoy.’” Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/investigations/2022/02/22/timeline-of-the-freedom-convoy.html?rf.
Frenette, M., Handler Tomasz, & Chan Winnie Ching Ping. (2021). “Leveraging postsecondary student employment into a career: The importance of remaining in the firm after graduation.” Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/81-595-m/81-595-m2020002-eng.htm.
Kaufmann, B. (2023). “Entering the pandemic’s fourth year, Alberta deaths surpass 5,600 while hospitalizations plummet.” Calgary Herald. https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/after-three-pandemic-years-alberta-deaths-surpass-5600-while-hospitalizations-plummet.
Lee, J. (2023). “Three years later: What has COVID-19 taught us, and are we ready for the next big threat?” CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/covid-19-three-years-later-lessons-1.6775259.
Morgan, K. (2021). “Why inexperienced workers can’t get entry-level jobs?” BBC. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210916-why-inexperienced-workers-cant-get-entry-level-jobs