As students look to go back to school, we asked Jasleen Bahia and Connor Watrych, our summer interns and Loran Scholars, to write stories this month from a Gen Z perspective. We wish to thank the Loran Scholars Foundation for their support of our intern program.  

If you know of something relevant and want to send for inclusion in the next regular brief, email .

Canada’s retirement crisis and youth employment

Far too frequently a finger is pointed at the younger generation for current Canadian labour market conditions, or the so-called Great Resignation. This accusation is linked to generous financial supports offered during the pandemic but the youth employment rate was 54.6 per cent in February 2020 and February 2022 it was back up to 54.6 per cent. For 25-54 year olds, workforce participation is one per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels.  

If youth and others are back to work why are there labour shortages? Retirements. Armine Yalnizyan told CBC News that the current smaller workforce “was predictable 60 to 65 years ago, and we have done nothing about it […] We knew this transition was going to happen.” The 2022 Canadian Retirement Survey from Abacus Data and Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan finds that 75 per cent of Canadians surveyed agree that there is an emerging retirement crisis. The pandemic, says the CBC article, sped up retirement for many boomers who are leaving the workforce. This problem will only get worse as the workforce continues to age.  

Fewer people in the workforce due to retirements, means increased competition for young workers, and employers will need to do more to attract and retain them. Youth want career advancement and development with adequate compensation. Wages are likely to increase to attract more workers to certain industries but they will have to rise substantially says Ian Lee, associate professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business. Current salaries are often lower than job seekers are willing to accept. Youth also want career advancement opportunities which could be difficult given pandemic scarring, a theory that past unemployment inhibits future career development. The CD Howe Institute has found that scarring from the pandemic could lead to employment roles that pay less, have reduced growth potential and even long-term, future unemployment. 

Career advancement: a journey, not a ladder

Millennials (ages 26-41) and Gen Zs (ages 10-25) think of career advancement as a journey, rather than a ladder. Previously, some baby boomers spent their entire working lives with the same employer because the boomer generation valued loyalty and longevity in the workplace. They were happy to get promoted and climb the corporate ladder. In fact, promotions or raises were indicators that they were reaching the next level of their career – they were advancing. But things are different now.  

 A 2021 survey from Hays revealed that 65 per cent of respondents were looking for a change, up from 49 per cent who said the same in 2020. Now, a recent survey from ADP Canada Co. showed that 24 per cent of Canadian workers changed jobs recently. Based on a survey by CareerBuilder, Gen Zs spend the lowest amount of time at a job before switching, with an average tenure of two years and three months. Millennials follow closely behind with an average tenure of two years and nine months. Millennials and Gen Zs will switch jobs to find what they are looking for with equity, diversity, inclusion, sense of purpose and environmental sustainability at the top of the list. Younger generations also prioritize higher salaries, better benefits and flexible work hours when deciding where to work next. Millennials and Gen Zs value lifelong learning through new opportunities. Ultimately, Millennials and Gen Zs recognize that if they are not satisfied, they have the option to move elsewhere. 

 Benefits of alternative programs

 Alternative programs like Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), French Immersion and Outdoor Education provide a different avenue for learning than the traditional secondary school system. Alternative education can lead to “deeper student/teacher connections, intentional social and emotional interventions, and increased resources.” Teachers are not expected to appeal to every student’s learning style, but they should recognize when an alternative program would better support certain students. Teacher education has not changed to prepare them for alternative programs as much of the onus is on them to innovate once in the role.    

 Streetfront is an alternative education program based out of Britannia Secondary School in Vancouver, B.C. Streetfront follows the provincial curriculum but incorporates outdoor experiences and running to teach at-risk students in new ways. The program “see[s] the inherent value of each individual student and invest[s] in their emotional, spiritual, mental and physical development [and] students unlock their own potential” for future success.  

International student experience in Canada 

The Canadian Bureau for International Education released its 2021 International Student Survey report with a survey of 41,512 international students (IS) across 67 Canadian post-secondary institutions.  Key takeaways include: 

  • Canada’s reputation as a safe and stable country was the top reason IS chose to study here.  
  • The biggest challenge for IS was arranging for a place to live. (CBC News shed some light on housing challenges for immigrants, including lack of Canadian credit history for Manitoba’s newcomers.) 
  • 72.6 per cent of those surveyed said that they planned to apply for a post-graduate work permit and 59.4 per cent said that they would apply for permanent residency. Pre-COVID, Canada surpassed the United States in international enrollment partly because of the easier pathway to permanent residency.  
  • IS largely indicated they would stay in the province where they went to school but commitment varied by province. In B.C. 86.4 per cent said they would stay, in Alberta that number was 77.3 per cent, in Manitoba it was 63 per cent and in Saskatchewan 62.6 per cent. The Canadian government recently announced measures to maintain employment for IS who had post-graduate work permits expire during the pandemic and also to applicants in temporary resident to permanent resident pathways. 

Pressure to ease international tuition

 International tuition costs have risen as institutions increasingly rely on IS tuition for revenues. Laurentian University in Ontario has frozen IS tuition to gain a competitive advantage over other post secondary institutions and help “salvage the university’s financial predicament.” Alberta student groups are advocating for government to regulate IS tuition increases. While incoming cohorts are told the amount they can pay over the four years, the amounts are neither capped nor regulated and can be raised.  

 Krupa Patel provided the IS perspective on the downside to Canada’s “addiction to international student money” to University Affairs. Patel says “the high tuition filters out poor but often academically qualified students from other countries. The Canadian government wants to bring in immigrants who can contribute economically, but there are some brilliant brains out there who are never given a chance to study and potentially immigrate here.” 

The Future of Work & Learning Brief is compiled by Stephany Laverty, Janet Lane, Connor Watrych and Jasleen Bahia. If you like what you see, subscribe to our mailing list and share with a friend. If you have any interesting stories for future editions, please send them to .