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Speaking as a millenial, Prof. Oreopoulos' presentation wasn't great. He said nothing I didn't know already. It's code for "poor job market, take what's on offer".

The critiques on unpaid internships were wonderful, though.

Yeah this is just the same boiler plate - be flexible blah blah blah blah. There are serious problems with the Canadian labor market and it's not just the recession and poor economic climate. Orepoulos talks about training - what country is he living in? Firms in Canada don't do training I've never seen a job in Canada that didn't demand an absolute minimum of 5 years experience in an identical position.

FWIW, our company hires people directly out of school. No experience necessary. But we might be the exception.

To be perfectly honest, I think that your remark about understanding the structural changes in the economy is much closer to the reality than what he is discussing. Unless you get yourself into some kind of cooperative education stream or "know people", trying to enter into any sort of career-oriented path is maddenly difficult. It may be more so now, but it was certainly similarly frustrating prior to the downturn for many of us.

There are *so* few organizations that are willing to train new employees and, as CBBB mentioned above, most public-facing job advertisements either explicitly or implicitly demand 2,3,5+ years of experience for entry-level positions.

There are two kinds of hiring: hiring outsiders that are new to the industry, and hiring others away from competitors. I call the latter "sheep-stealing" and it seems to predominate over the former. But we all wind up the poorer for it as it diminishes net opportunities for society.

Those 5-year experience requirements are designed to sheep-steal instead of taking in industry outsiders.

What has been the cause of the shift? That's a genuine economics question.

"There are two kinds of hiring: hiring outsiders that are new to the industry, and hiring others away from competitors. I call the latter "sheep-stealing" and it seems to predominate over the former."

I would *love* to get data on this. I suspect it would show that, in fact, this has been an increasing trend over the last, say, 40 years.

Please do. I meant to provoke an economist to making a study. It seems very topical and the results would be informative, relevant and timely to a great swath of the public. I have my intuitions but I thought somebody could do some serious research with numbers.

I believe part of the problem is their is simply too little competition in the Canadian marketplace, the firms are much too comfortable and can afford to not hire new talent and not invest in their workforce. I have noticed that job applications and interviews in the US, despite having a poor job market, go much much further then they do in Canada.
Changes need to be made - it would be better to create an economy where firms are desperate for employees rather then have the jobless desperate for work as the case is now.
All I hear is we need more education, more graduates, more people going into post-graduate programs - maybe something should be done to break the rampart nepotism that exists here.

I don't know if it is nepotism, but I have encountered the same sort of inertia.

I would love to live in an economy that is desperate for employees, but that isn't the economy we live in. I have heard from that this did exist in Canada in the 1940's and possibly the 1970's from people who were there, but this isn't today's reality.

The hardest thing is doing everything you can, going through the entire interview "beauty contest" and coming home with nothing. For some extenuating reason or another. Do that repeatedly and try not to get discouraged. Then try to tell your family what happened and hope they don't blame it all on you.

Nepotism may not have been the right word - basically in Canada careers are like conveyor belts that you can't move between, getting a good job requires getting on the right conveyor belt when you're 17. Go to the right school, get the right degree, coop/intern with the right companies - do everything right and you have a shot. Make even the smallest mistake (ie interning with the "wrong" company) and you're toast.
This is somewhat of a problem anywhere but it seems like other countries are more flexible, I know that in the UK for example the accounting firms will take students from any background and train them as accountants (if you make it in) but in Canada you can't be a CA if you don't have a specific degree in accounting.
The Canadian professions are simply too rigid. I blame the reliance on natural resources in this country - no reason for any sort of innovation when you can just pump oil out of the ground and sell it.

CBBB is right. I don't know about the cause, but he is right about the effect.

I don't know what all this rampant perfectionism is in aid of, it certainly doesn't help workers, nor firms who want labour flexibility or motivated employees. It is nonsense. And you can fall off the belt for any reason, a recession being a frequent one. Or you discover a company isn't what it promised it would be, or any of the other random reasons that you get with corporations, hierarchies and such.

Mike Moffatt: "FWIW, our company hires people directly out of school. No experience necessary. But we might be the exception."

Yes. Yes you are.

Terrific? There is nothing in Phil's videos other than informing the viewer that entering the labour market in a recession appears to have a persistent negative effect on lifetime earnings. It's accurate, and I'm sure Phil did his best to answer the questions put to him, but I would be shocked if a single job-seeker finds work as a result of viewing the videos.

"I would love to live in an economy that is desperate for employees, but that isn't the economy we live in. I have heard from that this did exist in Canada in the 1940's and possibly the 1970's from people who were there, but this isn't today's reality."

My father maried in 1954 as an inventory clerk in a pharmacy. In 56 he became manager of a building coop and built two complete suburbs with a couple thousand homes. One day in 58 my mom ,as a perfect 50's wife,phoned him at 10 as usual and learned he had lost his job ( discovering your boss is an embezzler is rarely a wise career move).
When he came home for dinner, mom asked him where he was coming from. "From work darling." He had been fired at 9, had two interviews lined up by 10 and accepted the first offer at 11. By 1966 he was managing a 200 beds hospital...

In my first 20 years, family income probably quintupled. And we were not the exception in our neighborhood ( the first one he had built...)

It was and could still be possible. The political will is no longer there.

I work for a giant firm that has very deep pockets (i.e. it could easily afford to train new grads). It refuses to hire new grads. Period.

FWIW, I've never worked anywhere where anyone received raises or a promotions. The only way I know of to get a raise or promotion is to change jobs at the top of the market (e.g 1999, 2005), and to hold on for dear life when it all goes pear shaped.

FWIW, our company gives employees raises and promotions. But we might be the exception.

Phil's videos are based on this paper: http://www.columbia.edu/%7Evw2112/papers/iza_dp3578.pdf.

His findings are not quite what Frank Dean and probably a lot of other viewers understood from watching the video. He finds that some people experience permanently lower earnings as a result of entering the labour market during a recession. But others catch up, recover, and do as well as people who entered the labour market during good times.

Based on anecdotal observation of what happened to my solidly middle-class high school graduating class, who hit the labour market in the brutal early 1980s recession, what happened was:

the best-of-the-best did just fine anyways, becoming doctors, lawyers, musicians, etc.

The people with lower levels of ability/labour market skills struggled, just as they always struggle.

Based on nothing more than personal experience, it's the middling people - moderately talented, but not brilliant - who end up doing much better in good times than bad.

"it's the middling people - moderately talented, but not brilliant "

Uh, by definition isn't that most of us?

A somewhat OT question for Mike (and any other MBA/C-suite types). I imagine this comes-up in business school at some point ... Given a typical organizational structure (say a tech firm): 'line manager' manages a bunch (say 5-10) of engineers who design and build stuff. How is a firm supposed to offer promotions when the only path up is to take your bosses job? And say, for arguments sake, that there is someone that could do their bosses job better than their boss, why in the world would the boss fire herself and promote the underling? Furthermore, isn't there perverse incentives for the manager to grind ambitious underlings under their boot heel as a way to protect their own interests? What's a firm supposed to do to avert this kind of thing (supposing they want to avert it)?

Also being someone in my '20s, I seem to have completely opposite experiences to what CBBB and Determinant have. I do remember at one point having no real idea how to start on a career path, but it turns out that it's really not that difficult. I just had to take a job that didn't sound that great because in less than 2 years, I was able to move into a much better job because I knew people, and they knew what I could do for them.

That said, though, I asked for the opportunities, and applied for jobs that I didn't have the qualifications for. Another 2 years and my 2 years direct experience, 2 years indirect, was enough to land a job asking for 5-10 years direct experience.

Every job I've had has provided substantial training. And in turn, I've been responsible for training others who are hired with little experience as well (also for jobs that requested experience in the ad). I don't think experience requests are so much about cherry picking from others, as they're about thinning the herd of applicants. Put "no experience necessary" and you've got thousands of resumes to dig through.

Maybe my experience is unusual. I don't know. But I get the impression that Determinant, CBBB and Patrick have experience focused on large companies with distant owners and little growth potential. Both of my employers thus far have been mid-sized employers (1200 and 500 employees, respectively), small enough that I know and work with the company owners, and they're ambitious folk who want to hire other ambitious people to grow the company.

Maybe I have an overdeveloped sense of irony, but I find it a bit rich listening to economists give advice to young job aspirants in a tight labour market. If everyone followed such advice, the supply of jobs would not increase, and the same number would end up disappointed. Somewhat like giving advice on how to beat out your fellow passengers for a spot on one of the lifeboats of the Titanic. The ironic bit, for those Keynesians among us, is that bad economic policies, propounded by gainfully employed economists, are responsible for the job shortage in the first place. Job seekers have every right to be angry, in my opinion, at the older generation that hasn't steered the ship clear of the icebergs in the first place.


Only once have I worked for a company larger than 200, and among the sample sample of smaller I have seen one stuffed full of contract workers of the sort Patrick described and another that broke its union by firing the entire unionized workforce and declaring itself decertified. In that last case it was the owners, two brothers, who personally took that action. They clearly wanted to create a cult of personality at their company.

Your experience is like the case of defined benefit pensions. They still exist and some are still open to new entrants it the private sector. But they aren't universal and are the exception to find rather than the rule. Sure there are good companies and bad companies, but right now the bad companies outnumber the good ones.

In my observation companies exhibit much more of a range of employment practices and philosophies than they did in the 1970's for example. Contract work, "self-employment" (quotes intentional), benefit stripping, unpaid internships. Employment comes in far more flavours than it did previously.


Sorry, I didn't catch that until now. That's similar to the stories I have heard. Quite simply that is not the world I live in. People who think that is today's world make me want to knock some sense into their incredibly thick heads.

In 2007 I went to a recruiting Open House at a consulting engineering firm. They wanted twenty or so prospects to entertain. They got 250, the entire office floor was packed.

In my experience it takes months to even get an interview and then two months to make a decision. That is just dithering and it's rampant.

Neil: I've worked for firms of all sizes - 7 in 10 years.

I agree that it all depends on management. One publicly traded start-up I worked for ware largely owned by hedgies like SAC. No lack of ambition there, but it is the wrong kind of ambition. They weren't interested in building a company, just pumping the stock price.

Small firms are so risk averse, and often liquidity constrained, that they just aren't going to train people and growth is limited by the risk aversion.

Giant firms are a lost cause. But the benefits are great, and while raises and promotions are non-existent, the yearly cost of living increment is nothing to sneeze at. Neither are the deep pockets that has them hiring in the depth of the Great Recession.

So I agree that medium size privately held firms are the best bet... but there aren't so many of those out there and they aren't all created equal.

BTW, I really think this has a lot to do with too few babies and too many oldsters. I know, Stephen has made a pretty good case for why the youngsters with any skill at all are likely to do well, but in the meantime we have the Boomers who will be holding on for dear life as long as possible. So perhaps todays 10 year olds will ultimately do OK (maybe), todays 30-somethings are relegated to sitting around waiting for their parents to leave the manager's office.

And I know that Frances has pointed out t hat younger workers are, in some sense, more productive, but I wonder if that holds for very many high salary jobs. Business is very much about relationships, navigating the organization, and politicking. Older workers can have a distinct advantage in this. As an example: Is there really any reason to believe that a 25 year old sales manager full of piss and vinegar is any more productive than a 55 or even 65 year old sales manager who's seen it all and can navigate all the organizational hurdles, personalities, egos, and has a contact list filled with all the industry insiders, etc ... Is an empty iPhone contact list really better than the full rolodex?

So while the older worker will do poorly if they leave a job and try to find another (for all the reasons we all know pretty well), they and the firm they work for probably have compelling incentives to get them to stay right where they are.

@Determinant: nil carborundum illegitimi (yeah, I know it's not really Latin)

I can't believe that time and money is wasted on this "research," not to mention these useless videos. I would suggest that Oreopoulos find himself a new career. I wonder what his propects would be finding a job in the real world? Not very good, and no research required to reach that obvious conclusion.

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