Schools help students crack the job market

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      Appropriately, given the profession he aspires to, planning is central to Dallas Skoda achieving his career goal.

      Skoda wants to become a certified financial planner, and to reach his objective, the Douglas College student figures he’ll start with a job at a bank or a credit union. Although he’s at least a year and a half away from completing his business administration degree, the 29-year-old is thinking ahead.

      Skoda’s schedule included an information interview Tuesday (April 29) at a major bank in downtown Vancouver. For the rest of the week, he’s visiting financial institutions in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody. He’ll be asking managers how he can enter their industry after he completes his studies.

      “It’s basically meet as many people as you can,” Skoda said about his method in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight. “Network—network like crazy.”

      For thousands of students graduating this spring from B.C.’s 25 public postsecondary schools and 300-plus registered private career-training institutions, landing a job by summer is likely top-of-mind.

      Over at BCIT, work-search coach Carol Penstock recently spent a week with accounting students eager to enter the job market after their June convocation.

      Throughout the year, she holds workshops to teach students how they can get the attention of employers.

      “They are taught that the résumé doesn’t get you the job, but it’s an important gateway into that interview,” Penstock told the Straight by phone.

      Penstock also advises BCIT students that it’s almost a given now that employers will look them up online. She noted that LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are important.

      “Your branding starts on social media,” Penstock said.

      Connecting students with employers is built into the two-year hospitality-management diploma program at Vancouver Community College.

      According to program head Michael Tittel, students are required to work a certain number of hours in the industry while enrolled. February and March are busy for those graduating in April. That’s when VCC invites the hospitality industry to the school’s annual interview week, where up to 90 percent of the students get hired. They start work after graduation, Tittel related. In addition to interview week, there is another event in which students gather around tables in a hotel ballroom and listen to managers talk about their work.

      “We ring a bell, and the managers move to another table,” Tittel told the Straight by phone. “It’s like speed dating.”

      At Douglas College, students like Skoda also get a lot of help.

      Barb Kojder, coordinator of the institution’s student employment centre, has gone over Skoda’s résumé and put him in touch with a number of banks. The centre has a job board, and it also organizes career fairs twice a year, as well as monthly forums with employers.

      According to Kojder, it pays for students to be proactive in planning their careers.

      “All the little activities that make up the big job search—if I can encourage them to start thinking about it and start tackling it in, like, bite sizes, then it’s not such a daunting, overwhelming process at the end of the semester,” Kojder told the Straight by phone.

      B.C.’s good labour-market conditions are a plus for prospective workers. According to the government’s 10-year forecast through 2020, over a million jobs are expected to open up.

      During this decade, 182,000 job openings are predicted in business, finance, and administration, which is Skoda’s field.

      Not wanting to be complacent, he’s putting in a lot of time now, saying, “It’s a lot of legwork, a lot of skill-building, and a little bit of luck.”