Canadian employers may need to show new hires the money if they wish to compete with foreign-owned companies for talent entering the workforce, especially in competitive fields such as technology, a survey released Wednesday suggests.
Only two Canadian companies — the Canadian Space Agency and Bombardier — cracked the list of top 10 companies considered most attractive by Canadian students studying the in-demand fields of engineering and information technology, according to a survey by employer-branding company Universum Global.
Google topped the list, followed by Tesla, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon.
The online survey of 20,676 students from 162 universities and colleges across Canada was conducted between October 2018 and February 2019. In partnership with career centres at the schools, Universum targeted students in six main fields of study: business, engineering/IT, natural sciences, liberal arts/fine arts/education/social sciences, law, and health and medicine.
For each of these areas, the survey produced a list of the top 100 employers. Students were also asked to rank the factors they’ll consider most important in an employer, as well as their career aspirations.
“A lot of what we think is attractive to this talent is often based on misconceptions and not on research,” said Jason Kipps, Universum’s managing director for Canada.
For example, many companies are quick to highlight a commitment to diversity and inclusion when they’re connecting with potential new hires through events like campus career fairs, he said.
But generation Y (millennials) and generation Z have grown up with an expectation of diverse, inclusive environments — and now see these as basic requirements, said Kipps.
Instead, this cohort is increasingly concerned with compensation.
“High future earnings and security have been increasing in importance for the last three years running,” said Kipps.
In this year’s survey, which asks students to rank their top 10 attributes they’re looking for in an employer, high future rankings was No. 1 overall.
“This is talent that knows other employees who work often under contract, gig work, and they’re tired of working under contract. They want a little more stability and security.”
Diversity and inclusion did not make it into that top 10, he said.
Banks improve their appeal to young hires
Canadian banks made notable progress in their appeal to students.
Among business students, for example, TD Bank and Royal Bank of Canada moved to the fifth and eighth spots respectively in 2019, up from the eighth and ninth most popular in 2018.
Though much further down the list, TD and RBC also made gains among engineering and IT students, ranking in positions 53 and 75 this year.
“A lot of banks have had heavy investments in trying to become more attractive to engineering and IT talent,” said Kipps.
Asud Anderson, head of campus recruitment and early talent for TD, said improving the bank’s standing among students has been a work in progress over many years.
A common theme that emerges from young people they speak to is desire for doing work that matters, as well as having inspiring leaders to help influence and build careers, said Anderson. “We really strive to hold our managers and leaders accountable to that.”
Whether students are there for a co-op position or as new graduates, Anderson says the bank makes sure they have a good experience — “that they’re having a really good time, they’re having fun, they’re pushing themselves, they’re challenging themselves, they’re getting involved in projects where they have an impact. And we make sure that they have a voice.”
Impact ranked high up the list of career aspirations weighed by the Universum survey; after having work-life balance and job security, dedication to a cause came third.
Though the banks may not have the office dogs, foosball tables and free lunches that characterize tech companies and start-up environments, Anderson said TD has been able to improve recruitment of engineering and IT graduates by getting on their radar at events like hackathons.
“And we do have a Ping-Pong table on the 10th floor,” he said.
Canadian companies don’t spend as much on recruitment marketing
If Canadian organizations want to fare better among graduates with in-demand skills, especially in a tight labour market, they’ll need to catch up to the U.S.-based companies in the growing field of recruitment marketing, said Kipps.
“Canadian companies are still a little behind with this,” he said. “Many don’t have a student-focused strategy.”
By contrast, U.S. companies are more likely to fund recruitment marketing, he said, “and to be out there growing their pipeline of talent.”
Anas Mohamed, a third-year computer science student at the University of Alberta, is currently working as a junior developer during a co-op term at the Edmonton office of DevFacto, a software consulting company.
Despite the downturn in Alberta’s energy sector, Mohamed said he’s optimistic about the job prospects awaiting him after graduation. He’s learned during his co-op that the need for software solutions is “way more than I assumed,” he said. “It’s still a pretty good ecosystem for software and computers.”
Although salary is an important consideration, there’s something Mohamed said he’ll place above that in his search.
“I think No. 1 would be mentorship. I was lucky that in my internship here, I had a really good mentor.”
Asked if he has a dream employer, Mohamed said it’s the same as his peers: “Everybody in software in this city wants to work for what’s called the big four — Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon.”