After high school

For Yukonomist readers born in 1995 and later, thoughts are now turning to summer jobs and what to do after high school. For Grad 2013 the end of the runway is approach fast, and for Grad 2014 it's time to get serious about the future.

For Yukonomist readers born in 1995 and later, thoughts are now turning to summer jobs and what to do after high school. For Grad 2013 the end of the runway is approach fast, and for Grad 2014 it’s time to get serious about the future.

Amid the grad parties and celebratory family dinners, it’s important to fit in a bit of strategic planning. You really don’t want to be the student who skips a bunch of Shakespeare assignments and finds out – too late – that your English 12 mark is one per cent too low to get into college. Or that you want to do a medical technician program but didn’t take enough science classes. Or, perhaps worst of all, end up putting four years into a degree you didn’t really like and which doesn’t get you a job anywhere but a coffee shop.

It’s a cliche of graduation ceremony speeches that education is important to your future. But it is nonetheless true. However, you have to get past the generalities that “everyone should go to university.”

TD Economics recently released a study that identified the job families that grew the fastest in Canada over the last decade. Computers and information technology was the fastest growing category, followed by engineers, lawyers and judges, trades and health care.

A couple of observations about this. First, fast growing job categories usually mean staff shortages, which means it’s easier to find a job and easier to get raises. Unemployment rates among skilled staff were dramatically lower than average in the recent recession. TD Economics figures show professionals earning 2.3 times more than low-skilled jobs on average. SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary reports that 84 per cent of its 2011 graduates found a job related to their training and these graduates had a median salary of $48,000. Not bad for recent graduates.

Secondly, all of these fast-growing jobs require more training after high school but – importantly – not just any kind of post-secondary training. I loved my Roman History classes at university, and they broadened my mind in many ways. I still read on the topic, and was nerdily recommending Polybius to someone just the other day. But it was probably sensible of me to get an economics degree as my main focus.

You’ll have noticed trades and health care on the list of fast-growing jobs. These are both sources of steady and well-paid jobs, but the path to them often goes through apprenticeship or technical training at places like SAIT rather than a general undergraduate degree.

Thirdly, you probably won’t be happy in a job you hate, so don’t just proceed like a sheep into the fastest growing job category. However, despite the wisdom of this last point, you also shouldn’t dismiss these categories too quickly. Many people end up loving jobs that their high-school selves would have snorted at.

Most high school students find themselves in a crossfire of advice coming from parents, friends, great aunts, high school counsellors and so on. Let me try to distil everything I’ve heard into a few pointers below.

1) Plan ahead and do some research. You are the one that owns your future. You have to do the research and make the decisions. Parents love you, this must be your decision. High school counsellors often serve hundreds of students each, and literally don’t have more than a few minutes a year to think about your future. You need to take control.

One useful research guide is the Maclean’s magazine guide to universities. Don’t start with the ratings at the back, but instead read the chapters up front on what to look for in a school and what you need to apply.

Look specifically at what you need to attend the programs that interest you. SAIT has different application requirements from BCIT. Avionics is different from heavy equipment repair. Ditto for UBC and the University of Alaska. Pick several places to apply, including a “fall back” option in case you don’t get into your first choice.

Make sure your course selections and grades will get you where you want to go.

2) Create option value for yourself. You’re young, and you’ll probably change your mind. Maybe several times. So keep your options open. Don’t drop math and science too early. Your high school counsellor probably knows dozens of students who had to take remedial math courses after high school to get into the program they wanted.

The same applies for those going into first-year university. Make sure your first-year course selections give you a wide range of courses, and lots of choices later to specialize and pick a major. You may enjoy Roman History, Women’s Studies or English Literature, but your practical side will probably want to have options to get a degree more closely linked to those fast-growing job categories.

3) Ask for advice. You own your future, but you are not the first person in history to face these choices. Ask older friends who are already studying where you want to go. Ask people, even your parents’ friends, who work in jobs you think you might like. You don’t have to do what they say, but you’ll probably get smarter from the conversations.

4) It’s never too late. Even if you haven’t done any of the things above, you can start now. I have a friend who bombed Math 12 at F.H. Collins in a truly spectacular way. He’s now a highly successful electrical engineer in Europe. He just took a few detours.

That’s my advice. It’s up to you now.

Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the MacBride Museum’s Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3-hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council will vote on the second reading of the Official Community Plan amendment on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Future area of Whistle Bend considered by council

Members set to vote on second reading for OCP change

The City of Whitehorse’s projected deficit could be $100,000 more than originally predicted earlier this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City deficit could be just over $640,000 this year

Third quarter financial reports presented to council

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Oct. 30. Masks became mandatory in the Yukon for anyone five years old and older as of Dec. 1 while in public spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
As mask law comes into effect, premier says $500 fines will be last resort

The territory currently has 17 active cases of COVID-19

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a press conference on April 1.
Government rejects ATAC mining road proposal north of Keno City

Concerns from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun were cited as the main reason for the decision

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Dec. 2, 2020

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read