Young Canadians Migrate West For Better Jobs

Conventional job search advice tends to suggest that if you can't find work in your immediate area, you have to widen your search radius—and that is just what young Canadian professionals are doing. 

How Western Canada is attracting young job seekers 

For Canadian job seekers between the ages 25-34, opportunities are available for qualified candidates in Western Canada’s growing job markets. In a report titled "Go West, Young Adults," the Fraser Institute, an independent Canadian research organization, noted that over the last decade, the Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia provinces have been drawing in job seekers with an abundance of opportunities

The report showed that, between 2003 and 2012 (the last year from which data is available) Alberta posted a staggering net gain of 60,855 career-age adults. Rounding out the west were British Columbia and Saskatchewan, which saw net gains of 10,643 and 581 career-age adults respectively. Over that same time span, Ontario experienced a net loss of 27,451 young adults, while Quebec lost 24,355. 

So what are these provinces doing to create jobs and attract youth? The Fraser Institute found a strong correlation between the level of private investment in a region and its employment growth. Alberta boasted the highest level of private investments—$60.5 billion in 2012—and reaped the reward creating well-paying jobs to attract young talent.

Another reason why the western provinces are attracting young Canadians so easily is that many of the jobs available don't require a college education. In fact, some don't even require a high school diploma. The Fraser Institute reported that Alberta is the only province in Canada where people without a high school education also have a single-digit unemployment rate. 

The report concluded that young people have realized they can find an abundance of well-paying jobs and live a middle class lifestyle out west without needing years of formal education. This is the primary draw for young Canadians who have felt largely shut out of the job market in the eastern part of the country. 

How the eastern provinces can win back their youth 

Some believe better days are ahead for Canada’s eastern provinces. One business leader in Ontario has been particularly optimistic, especially about his own region's prospects. 

Matt Marchand, CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, told the Windsor Sun that there are plenty of opportunities in the Ontario region. The problem, he said, is a "skills mismatch." In response, Marchand and the chamber has developed a program with St. Clair College called the Magnet Network. The goal? To inform young Canadian workers of Ontario’s opportunities, especially in the agricultural and tool and die industries. 

"We are doing our best to encourage young folks to match the skill requirements with what's needed in the workforce," Marchand said. "Some of these jobs are paying over $70,000, and they can't find enough people." 

Marchand also believes that Ontario's understated but growing tech sector will draw highly educated workers. 

"We have a great, but quiet tech sector," Marchand said. "We are trying to get the message out to young people that you don't need to go to Waterloo or Toronto for tech. If you want to get involved in tech startups, this is the place to do it."