By Emma Gammans, February 7 2017 —
Alberta’s current economy isn’t particularly welcoming to those graduating and looking to kick-start their careers. During his town hall at the University of Calgary, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Alberta is struggling and has been struggling for the past few years, but at the same time I know there is strength and resilience here.”
University and college recruiters visit high schools every year. They set up tables in foyers to hand out pamphlets, pens, key chains and various other swag in the hopes of inspiring students to pursue higher education. If you get a degree, you’re good to go. You can do anything you want. The world is full of opportunities. Degrees, they say, open doors.
But what graduates need to remember is that the strength and resilience Trudeau spoke about are especially important in these times of economic struggle.
What the university representatives visiting local high schools fail to tell students is that an undergraduate degree no longer guarantees you a good job, a comfortable life or good pay. Degrees come at a high cost, often leaving students with a large amount of debt. Loans make sense when you consider graduating, landing a job and immediately starting the process of repayment, but with the average loan debt landing at around $25,000, post-secondary graduates are placed under immense pressure to find a job before interest starts to accumulate. In Calgary, that means applying alongside thousands of other working professionals who’ve recently been laid off.
Many graduates are leaving Alberta to pursuit work opportunities. Statistics Canada shows close to 17,600 Albertans left the province in the first few months of 2015. In his speech, Trudeau confessed that Alberta’s economic downturn is one of the main reasons why several pipeline approvals have been made possible.
Life following graduation will likely be a brutal awakening for students who believed in the promises of immediate success. We dream of making an impact and rising steadily in our chosen fields, but this is not the reality. The fact of the matter is we must work harder than ever to find a place in a sea of graduates. The number of highly qualified individuals is on the rise and graduation is no longer a door that opens to clearly delineated opportunities, but rather onto competitive fields of eager, ready-to-work graduates.