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The Most Attractive Employers for Canadian young talent in 2020

By Universum on 15/10/2020

Toronto, October 15th, 2020

Universum presents its annual ranking “The Most Attractive Employers” for young talent in Canada. Set out to track career aspirations and preferences of Canada’s future talent pool, this ranking recognizes the current most coveted employers based solely on student votes.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Hospital/Health Care, Arts and Wellness are the preferred industries by Canadian students
  • Several Canadian companies made it to the top 10 of ideal employers this year
  • When it comes to diversity in Canada, diverse talent have diverse employer preferences
  • Decrease in salary expectations among Generation Z students
  • More than 30% of Canadian students are interested in working in the emerging Cannabis industry
  • Gender gap reached 14%

As Generation Z enters the workforce it is crucial to understand its expectations and professional goals. In 2020, Canadian young talent prioritizes companies that offer high future earnings and represent a stable option for the long term.

Universum, the global leader in employer branding, presents this ranking every year with the most attractive companies for students. In 2020, 18,226 students from 157 universities across Canada, participated sharing their opinions and views on their career goals and ideal employers during the period between October 2019 and February 2020.  The Universum survey is the largest and longest running student career preference survey in Canada with over 1.2 million responses cumulatively.

The Top 10 Most Attractive Employers in Canada according to talent from different fields of study are:

6Air CanadaCanadian Space Agency
8RBC/Royal Bank of CanadaFacebook
10TD Bank Financial Group/
TD Canada Trust

What are Canadian students looking for?

When analyzing the responses of students from all fields of study surveyed (Business, Engineering/IT, Natural Sciences, Liberal Arts, Law and Health/Medicine) “high future earnings” was the most sought-after employer attribute. This means students are motivated by the promise of economic success in the long term.

The second most important employer attribute was “secure employment” and followed by “a friendly work environment” ratifying the long-term perspective of young talent in Canada.

Diverse talent have diverse employer preferences

There are marked differences on the most and least important job attributes, depending on each student’s background. For students who identify themselves as aboriginal and for persons with disabilities, it is crucial to have an inspiring purpose in their careers. For those who belong to the LGBTQ community, ethical standards come first. The only exception was those students that identify as visible minorities, for whom high future earnings is the number one preference, similar behavior to the average of all groups combined.

A growing population of international students

Canada’s international student population has tripled over the past decade, placing the country in the third place globally for foreign students behind the United States and Australia.

From the population of Universum’s research, 6,094 students were from India, the largest group for international students, accounting for the 6% of the total sample. From this group, 55% intended on staying in Canada to work after graduation, making up for an important talent group.

When comparing Canadian Talent versus Foreign Talent, the results again point to “high future earnings” as the most important attribute in a future career. This attribute ranks the highest for both groups. Some differences among groups start with Canadian talent showing a greater degree of attractiveness towards job security and professional settings that offer work-life balance. On the other hand, international students appear more interested in job attributes that promote creativity and innovation, while also giving them the boost required to excel in their future careers.

Gen Zers lower their salary expectation

This year, Gen Zers, or those born 1997 onwards, accounted for 89% of the students surveyed. One of the main findings for 2020 addresses the salary expectations among that group. A decrease of $404 CAD going from $58,047 in 2019 to $57,643 in 2020, can be the reflect of global economic uncertainty and social unrest. When it comes to priorities, both generations, Gen Zers and Millennials alike, give special importance to professional opportunities that offer job security, another crucial attribute during economic crises.  

average expected salary per gender canada

The Cannabis industry as professional option

Following the legalization of Cannabis in Canada through the Federal Cannabis Act in 2018, employment in the new legal Cannabis industry became a professional option for local talent. Being the second country in the world and the first in the G20 to legalize the recreational and medicinal use of Cannabis, this industry has a high potential to attract talent who values innovation.

Among the student surveyed, 33% declared interest in working on this sector while 58% did not consider it an option for their careers. Analyzing the group of those interested, men are majority with 42% of males willing to work in this industry versus a 30% of females. The main reasons associated with an interest in the Cannabis industry are the potential to build new skill sets and an exciting/interesting work.

Gender gap is still present

The average salary expectation for students in Canada is $57,513 CAD for 2020. However, there are differences depending on the gender. Males expect in average $62,922 CAD while females expect $54,229 CAD, a gap of 14% among genders.

National companies caught the attention of Canadian talent

Despite most talent showing a strong desire to work for international organizations, several Canadian employers achieved a ranking position within the top 10 for Business and Engineering/IT Talent. The biggest winners include Air Canada, RBC/Royal Bank of Canada, Lululemon (up 21 position for Engineering/IT students), TD Bank Financial Group, Canadian Space Agency and Bombardier.


From the companies joining the Universum ranking for the first time in 2020, these 3 had the best performance:

  • H&M: #32 for Business students.
  • Aurora Cannabis: #64 for Business and #97 for Engineering/IT students.
  • Tim Hortons: #77 for Business students.

Talent Insights

Do you wish to better understand your brand image, audience and competitors?

Every year Universum surveys over 1 million students and professionals worldwide to identify the brand image status of the most attractive employers. Our Analytics solutions give you the insights you need to win the war for talent.

About Universum

Universum, part of the StepStone Group, is a global thought leader in Employer Branding. With over 30 years of valuable experience in the field of employer branding, we have established ourselves in 60 markets globally, and our diverse workforce is physically present in 20 countries. We are uniquely positioned through our talent surveys to deliver key insights to recruiters about what future talent is looking for in a company. Our data-led, human and meaningful output has attracted more than 1,700 clients, including many Fortune 500 companies, as well as global media partners that publish our annual rankings and trend reports. Find out more at www.universumglobal.com.