Talk about mixed signals: the news these days is full of articles about our moderately high unemployment rate and the lack of jobs for youth and recent post grads. In the same day, you could pick up the paper and the talk is all about skills shortages and how businesses are struggling to find the right staff.

So what’s the deal? If there’s a job shortage, then why are some sectors in such dire staffing straights? Let’s try to sort it out.

The Perils Of Youth In The Job Market

The latest numbers from Statistics Canada for May put unemployment at 7.3 per cent in Canada – up 1.2 per cent since the same time last year. However, youths from ages 15 to 24 had an unemployment rate of 14.3 per cent. That’s 0.4 per cent higher than it was a year ago – not good news for young Canadians.

What’s driving youth unemployment is our off-balance demographics. Boomers are still in the workforce in droves. Many who planned to retire are still rebuilding their portfolios after the markets collapsed in 2008. Many will probably stay long after their retirement funds are back up to where they were: once bitten, twice shy.

Boomers are plugging up the top level jobs in many organizations, preventing middle-agers from moving up – leaving a scarce supply of entry level jobs where youth could get their foot in the door.

Meanwhile, many who are dipping their toes into semi-retirement are putting in part-time hours in retail and other industries that students and new grads have often relied upon. So this is leaving youth not just underemployed — as they often are — but not employed at all.

Exploring the Skills Drought

Ironically, many Canadian entrepreneurs state their biggest business problem is finding and retaining good talent. The youth of Canada who struggle to find jobs can’t help but wonder what this is all about.

That’s because there’s long been a disconnect between what students are encouraged to dream about and study, and what’s really needed in the employment world. Businesses need people with science and tech skills: there’s a range of jobs in the booming healthcare industry, the trades are always a flourishing and well-paid field, and those who are trained in oil and gas jobs are often in demand.

These skill shortages are highlighted in the huge regional disparities in employment in Canada. In Alberta, where the oil and gas industry is doing well, youth employment is just 8.8 per cent.

Many companies are willing to pay people to work at difficult jobs in remote or challenging locations – but not everyone is eager to move.

New Job Hunting Tactics for Changing Times

To get a job, young people are being forced to look at the market in a new way. Simply putting out resumes is not enough. Youth need to build up impressive resumes with volunteer work and the like. They need to get creative about building a network of contacts to find work and establish themselves in a career. They need to get training in fields that have demands and not just rely on general arts degrees to ensure their long-term success. And they need to consider moving to go where the work is.

Facing Down Frustrations

A negative outlook is a roadblock often created by young job hunters – a trait that can be a big turn off for many employers. Frustration built up from fruitless job searching can get in the way of leveraging what opportunities exist.

It’s not an easy time to be young and trying to build a future. Worldwide, youth are struggling to find work and a place in society. There is a move to encourage governments to encourage job creation for young people. But for now, youth have to take this challenge on and push hard to find a future, despite the odds.

PS: Currently a student? Start building those savings now and create a buffer for that post-grad job hunt. Check out student saving accounts here.