In my view too many younger Canadians have suffered long term career damage due to the jobless recovery post the 1991 recession, the 2001 dot-bomb, and now the 2010 ‘Great Recession’. Globalization, outsourcing and a shortsighted industry and political leadership has put an entire generation in jeopardy.
I was asked a few months ago to contribute to an article by Barbara Moses for the Globe & Mail about what we might expect in the job market following the ‘Great Recession of 2008/9.
And recently I had lunch with a colleague and she was going on, as many liberals do, about the need to assist immigrants, native Canadians and women to accelerate their progression in the Canadian workforce, and generally help them experience a satisfying career. I can’t disagree with these idealistic sentiments but I had to ask, and what about (non-native?) Canadian white young males? Her first response was glib, and to her credit she quickly realized it: white males have had the advantage, now it’s time for others. How can that be considered ethical? Equity can never be properly achieved by discrimination. The events of the past were the events of the past – they cannot be corrected, assuming they were even wrong, viewed through the ethical lens of those times.
What we need to concern ourselves with today, are today’s issues, for the good of the people affected by the events of today, and for the good of society in general.
So here is what I had to say to Barbara Moses:
As to post-recession trends I think the main casualty, again, will be young, entry level people, especially university graduates. It’s really a trend we’ve seen since the recession of 1991. The jobless recovery. Young people who dreamed about being able to apply themselves in worthwhile endeavours have been sorely disappointed. They have been forced to accept a series of ‘McJobs’, trying to acquire that elusive ‘experience’; this has resulted in an increasingly jaded generation. As managers and employers we have failed and are failing an entire generation, and are in the process of failing a second one. I don’t have an answer – I understand employers must be competitive and be responsive to their shareholders but it seems to be at the expense of social responsibility. If there is one thing governments might do to salvage a cynical generation it would to encourage the old fashioned notion of creating entry level jobs in organizations, especially with SMEs. (Oops, sorry, small and medium enterprises!)
People must take responsibility for themselves – government cannot do it for them. (Adam Smith continues to be right in this: people will act in their own best interests, and if they think that government will do the best job for them, they’re going to let it!)
Employers must take responsibility for contributing to the wellbeing of society. Government can contribute to conditions for success in this regard but organizations (companies, agencies, governments (as employers) must provide the opportunity: new and recent graduates need that first professional job and employers must give it to them. It is the moral, ethical, and ultimately socially healthy thing to do. Not just for designated groups, all members of the career entry stage generation.
So my clients everywhere: as managers, what are you doing to hire a young person and give him or her the career start needed? The start that someone once gave you.