Canada: Employers Willing to Pay More for Specialized Millennials, Report Says

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By Peter Menyasz

Canadian employers are willing to pay higher salaries for entry-level millennial employees with specialized skills, particularly those with graduate degrees in geology, technology, engineering or the law, according to a Conference Board of Canada report.

A survey of employers found that they expect to pay recent graduates with a bachelor’s degree annual starting salaries of C$45,000-C$69,000 ($33,000-$50,000), but are willing to pay significantly more for graduate degrees in specialized areas, Allison Cowan, director of the Ottawa-based think-tank’s Compensation Research Centre, said in a statement accompanying the report.

“Many young Canadians are experiencing difficulties integrating into the workforce or are underemployed in the current job market,” Cowan said. “Despite these difficulties, many organizations are actively seeking highly educated millennials and are increasingly willing to pay a premium for new graduates to mine their specialized skill sets in areas such as technology and engineering.”

The unemployment rate for young Canadians remains high, approximately 20 percent underemployed or involuntarily working part-time, but with retirement rates expected to reach more than 9 percent over the next five years, employers will need more young workers to fill entry-level positions, Cowan said.

Education, Expertise Crucial

The survey found that employers expect to pay the highest average starting salaries for positions involving geology, C$69,736 ($50,907), engineering, C$65,183 ($47,584) and law, C$62,571 ($45,677), the Conference Board found. Employers expect to pay the lowest average starting salaries for administrative support, C$42,559 ($31,068), risk management, C$48,797 ($35,622) and sales, C$50,327 ($36,739).

The study also found significant differences in starting salary based on the new employee’s level of education, employers expecting to pay entry-level employees holding a master’s degree up to C$10,000 ($7,300) per year more than those with a bachelor’s degree and up to C$15,000 ($11,000) more than those without a college degree.

“Canadian students appear to be taking note of the skills gaps in the workforce, as the percentage of graduates of post-secondary programs in architecture, engineering and related technologies has increased in the last decade,” the report said. “In comparison, the proportion of graduates from programs in the humanities and education has decreased over the same timeframe.”

Surprisingly, the proportion of Canadians graduating in mathematics, computer and information sciences has decreased over the past decade, leading to suggestions of a looming labor shortage of software engineers and designers over the next 10 years.

New Approaches to Attract Millennials

Employers are rethinking their approaches to attracting millennial employees, Mary Barroll, president of online job board and career development website TalentEgg, said in an expert perspective included in the Conference Board report.

According to Barroll, employers should focus on their culture and values in recruiting, differentiate between their corporate and employer brands and consider creating specific career landing pages on their corporate websites that focus on defining and amplifying the employment brand.

“What might be appealing to a candidate in the middle of their career could be entirely unimportant to a young person just launching their career,” Barroll said. “Organizations should target their value proposition to a young person who is entering the workforce, using the same media platforms, methods of communication and language that their ideal candidate uses.”

Employers can address ongoing concerns about voluntary turnover rates for entry-level positions—particularly when it comes to hiring millennials, who have been known to switch jobs after only a short time—by tightening their focus on professional and career development, Barroll said. Employers need to demonstrate to new employees that there is long-term potential for career growth, both upward and lateral.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Menyasz in Ottawa at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

For More Information

For more information on Canadian HR law and regulation, see the Canada primer.

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