The job market in Calgary is booming. With an unemployment rate of 4.9 per cent in Alberta, students' futures look bright.
courtesy Brady Fullerton

The job market looks good for grads

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From non-profit organizations to the oil and gas industry, employment opportunities haven't looked this good for Albertan students since before the economic downturn. Several hundred jobs can be found on Joblink, the University of Calgary's internal job board, every day.

There has been a 76 per cent increase in the number of jobs available on Joblink since 2008 for U of C students. The last career and job expo hosted at the U of C was beyond capacity, with employers seeking the best and brightest. Mount Royal University has also received a lot of attention from employers.

According to chief economist for the Calgary Chamber of Commerce Ben Brunnen, the economic climate in Alberta is at a high point, with an unemployment rate of 4.9 per cent, two points below the national average.

"Alberta boasts the lowest employment rate in the country right now. What that means is we have a very strong job market, so we're seeing a lot of confidence in the economy," said Brunnen. "With confidence coming from both businesses and consumers, and the very good employment numbers, we should expect to see a far better job market for students in Calgary and Alberta than we've seen in the last three years."

Brunnen said students may be a perfect fit for hiring in new markets, which are important for employers in Calgary.

"Forward thinking businesses in the city will be developing long-term solutions and HR strategies to alleviate their labour needs. Those businesses are going to start looking at underutilized talents, such as students and new graduates, who are eager to get some job experience and are educated and just need to hone their skills," he said. "That's the market that's going to be the future for a lot of Calgary's employers."

Recent U of C marketing graduate and former business representative for the Students' Union Chris Palmer, who works for a management consulting company, said it is an interesting time to graduate in Calgary.

"I think the fact that a lot of large employers are moving to Calgary, we have a demographic within the older companies that's aging and going to be moving on and, of course, those people are going to need to be replaced. That's where undergraduate or graduate students come in," said Palmer.

Palmer stressed that there are both negatives and positives to the booming job market.

"I think it's very positive, but at the same time it gives students a lot of options. For students who haven't decided on their careers yet, it probably won't make it any easier," said Palmer. "It will probably lead a lot of students to find work in Calgary that may not be the best thing for them."

Colleen Bangs, the U of C's career services manager, says students should exercise caution when looking for new careers. She said students should think about their future when applying for jobs, and develop strategies to ensure the best outcome. "Students really need to think about what their long-term goals are as far as the jobs that are available. There are a lot of entry-level opportunities available, and it's really about being strategic and getting in the right place." said Bangs. "Sometimes it may not be the perfect job that's available, but if you're thinking long-term about what [these positions] may look like in a year or five years from now, a lot of students will find themselves working where they want to work."

Both Brunnen and Bangs believe students should take advantage of the tools and opportunities they have to strengthen how they look for employment. For students at the U of C, some of these tools include a co-curricular record, resume workshops and mock interviews through the Student Success Centre and Career Services.

"We constantly have a large number of jobs and employers looking to hire, but there's only a certain number of students that use the resources available to them, so students should really seek them out and use them because it's those things that make a difference," said Bangs.

Palmer said students should do what they love to do and approach the job market with high aspirations.

"Follow your passions, because in Calgary, a lot of students haven't had an opportunity like this," he said.