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Canadian university graduates prioritize high future earnings over support for DE&I in their career choices in 2023

By Universum, 2023-08-09

Discover Canadian Graduates' Salary Trends and Career Priorities in 2023 with Universum's Research. Explore the Most Attractive Employers and Insights on Remote Work Preferences among Canadian University Students.

Contrary to popular belief, Canadian college and university students do not prioritize a company’s  support for diversity & inclusion or gender equality in their career decisions. Even students that self-identify as visible minorities did not select support for diversity and inclusion as one of the top attributes they are looking for in an employer this year.  Similarly, female students are not prioritizing an employer’s support for gender equality as a priority in their employer choices. Instead students prioritize high future earnings. This is according to a talent study from Universum, the global leader in employer branding research. In 2023, students from Canada are expecting CA$66,678 in salary before bonuses and “high future earnings” is the single most important attribute when considering a potential employer. This is based on the largest talent study in Canada from Universum, the global leader in employer branding research. 

This year, 80% of students say they’re interested in working remotely at least part of the time, up two points since last year; however, students have complicated feelings about remote work. Jason Kipps, CHRL, Managing Director, Canada explains, “Our research shows students are highly concerned about the isolating effects of remote work, even though the large majority prefer to work this way at least part of the time. It’s increasingly clear that employers need to address the social effects of working remotely — especially among younger employees, who benefit most from mentoring and development.” 

Universum surveyed over 28,000 Canadian students to understand their career goals, aspirations and perceptions of 200 employers worldwide. Each year, we ask students to identify the employers they think are most relevant on campus, and this feedback forms the basis of our employer list. (Employers do not pay a fee to participate.) 

Notable findings from the 2023 Canada research include: 

Google and Apple are the ideal employers for business, engineering and tech students in Canada. RBC gained two points in 2023 to land at #3 among business students, and the Canadian Space Agency held it’s #6 spot for engineering students. (See the full list of the Most Attractive Employers in Canada.) 

Soft economy lifts “practical” priorities. Given slowdowns in hiring, students are more focused on compensation-related employer attributes like high future earnings (the #1 choice) and competitive base salaries (up seven points to #5), and putting less weight on “soft” qualities like leadership opportunities and opportunities to make an impact (both down multiple points in 2023). 

Salary expectations level in 2023. After an increase in salary expectations of 9% in 2022 compared to 2021, this year Canadian university students’ expectations have leveled off at $66,678. Women expect nearly 15% less than men — a gap that is on par with last year.

Business students are drawn to traditional industries and companies. Given economic uncertainties, business students are prioritizing stable/secure industries like banking, auditing and accounting, and management consulting. This trend has lifted students’ perceptions of Canadian players like RBC, TD Canada Trust and Bank of Montreal. 

Engineering/IT candidates favour aerospace and defense by a wide margin. Top industries for engineers/IT students are aerospace and defense, computer software and tech, and video gaming companies. All are up multiple points in 2023 compared to 2022. 

Quality-of-life factors remain strong for Canadian students. In previous economic slowdowns, quality-of-life factors tended to drop down the priority list; yet in 2023, flexible work and work-life balance remain at #3 and #4 — a sign these two issues are non-negotiables for many young people.

“We are currently observing a profound transformation in the expectations and priorities of young university students in 2023,” according to Jason Kipps, CHRL, who serves as the Managing Director Canada. “Certain factors, such as the inclination towards job security, may eventually reverse as the economy strengthens. However, the increasing emphasis on improving the quality of life represents a lasting trend in the way young individuals approach employment. It is imperative for companies not only to revise but to genuinely reconsider their employee value proposition and employer brand to align with this shift.

Another noteworthy observation is that a significant number of companies are failing to effectively communicate their commitment to diversity in their recruitment marketing content. This content often comes across as objectifying and somewhat tokenistic, ultimately failing to resonate with diverse candidates. Authenticity is paramount when engaging with this talent pool, rendering tokenistic visuals insufficient. Companies must delve deeper into conveying their authentic diversity story, with longer-form content proving to be more impactful in this regard.”

To view the full list of the Most Attractive Employers in Canada, visit here.

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