Future of Work: Part 2 -- Where Jobs Are
Time was when an entire nation's fortunes were determined by where the natural resources resided. That was certainly the case in the in the 1850's, when John Soule, an Indiana newspaperman, first urged his readers westward in the U.S.A.
Today the situation is very different, of course. Opportunities for employment are spread across Canada. Not uniformly, of course. There are definitely pockets of activity where people in particular industries and professions stand a better chance of finding work than others.
Take call centres, for example. I mentioned in my first installment of this series, Forecasting Sectors of Growth, that Northern Ontario and the east coast were becoming hotspots for this industry. A plentiful supply of affordable, bilingual labour, as well as affordable office space, have made this possible.
Wondering where someone with your skills and background will be in demand over the next few years? Human Resources And Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) has put their best prognostications forward on their Job Futures website. A visit to www.jobfutures.ca/en/brochure/jobopportunities.html outlines, by province, prospects for 'the most promising jobs.'
Provincial Outlooks Here in Ontario, HRSDC expects to see more need for the following occupations: Chefs, chemical engineers, computer systems analysts, construction skilled trades, electronic service technicians (household & business equipment), machinists, mechanical engineers, registered nurses, secondary & elementary school teachers, and tool & die makers.
Some of these conjectures make infinite sense. More chefs will be needed if we continue to eat out and pick up ready-made meals, as part of our increasingly hectic lifestyles. Construction workers, drywallers, bricklayers, electricians and related trades are necessary when housing markets boom (as is happening in the GTA). And a fresh crop of teachers must be trained in order to replace the wave of veterans who are just starting to retire en masse. (Note: ask me later about the strains being put on the Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan -- although the fund grew by 18% last year, it finds itself with a sudden $6 billion shortfall!)
In the rest of Canada, employment prospects vary widely from province to province. In the east, Newfoundland and Labrador may require more deck officers, financial auditors & accountants, general practitioners & family physicians, and registered nurses. Heading into the Maritimes, there is anticipated demand for aircraft mechanics & inspectors, hairstylists & barbers, long haul truck drivers, managers in engineering, architecture, science & information systems, and university professors, among others.
Quebec is supposedly the place to be for engineers, 'notably electric & electronic, computer & aerospace' specialists, as well as human resources and business service professionals, and teachers of persons with disabilities.
The Job Futures site goes on to foretell prospects in each province of the west as well. I won't inundate you with the nitty gritty. My own feeling is that contingencies will dictate job prospects as much as anything else. For example, if the price of gas stays at current levels, or rises under renewed terrorist attacks, Alberta could have a thriving oils sands project requiring engineers, drillers, equipment operators and the like. Lumber processing could soar in B.C. if the U.S. chooses not to fight April's NAFTA ruling allowing in more of our softwood. As for the prairies, well, if the Conservatives are voted in federally (as the latest polls suggest), and if subsidies to farmers are slashed, Manitoba and Saskatchewan could be begging for bankruptcy trustees.
Going Abroad Beyond Canada, there are enormous opportunities awaiting those with the right combination of skills, moxy, language ability, and willingness to move. China is a standout, with its siren call of 10% annual growth in gross domestic product. As more and more manufacturing leaves our shores and moves to cities like Shanghai, Suzhou and Zhuhai, there is a growing need for technically skilled managers who understand local production nuances. Also for export managers, marketers who understand a variety of cultures, and trade liaisons.
Unfortunately conditions for workers abroad can shift in an instant. Take for example the 2,500 or so Canadians registered in Saudi Arabia (1,800 in Riyadh alone). Up until a month ago, the situation was magnificent for those so inclined. High wages, respect from the local populace, and guaranteed demand for services, particularly in the oil industry. After the spate of Westerner killings there by extremists since May, however, many of our ex-pats are re-thinking their plans.
Even if you could find a hospitable, stable region in the world where your skills and experience would command a premium, would you be willing to follow the money? The idea of uprooting just isn't as popular here as it is in, say, the U.S. and Europe. There, moving to a different city for work has a long, well-established tradition. Locally we tend to bristle at having to break family ties, say goodbye to friends and neighbours, pull children from schools, and do the vagabond thing just to make a buck.
It would seem, then, that the migration patterns of jobs is just another piece of the career planning puzzle. Knowing that Toronto is the place to be for construction is great, if you can apply your skills to this industry. Betting that B.C. logging will boom under relaxed trade quotas can put you in the heart of the action, assuming you have relevant experience and are willing to move. It all boils down to what you value most: The relative security of consistent demand for your services, or the constancy of being grounded geographically. Not an easy decision, but one that more and more of us may be forced to consider if real job growth remains as flat as it's been.
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