The career advice business is doing well these days. Google “career change” and you get a long list of sponsored ad-links – agencies that will sell you tips on refreshing your old resume, conquering job interview anxiety, or reinventing yourself for the post-recession economy.
Some agencies are geared to modest aspirations, with offers of “interesting new opportunities, with flexible hours and decent cash, in call-centre industry.” Other outfits are angling for the executive crowd, dangling the prospect of a rapid return to the world of six-figure corporate salaries.
Typically these ads feature promotional shots of well-dressed smiling people, embarking on their next excellent adventure with confidence and ease. It’s an image that equates changing careers with excitement, glamour even. But for many Canadians, embarking on a second career is not a matter of choice – but a harsh reality that has been forced upon them by a crisis that’s decimated 400,000 fulltime jobs across the country.
Over half of these losses have occurred in Ontario, the heartland of Canada’s manufacturing sector, and the setting of Autoworkers at a crossroads. In episode three, we learn that Brian, a former GM worker in Oshawa, is retraining as a welder through Ontario’s Second Career program.
Second Career was established in 2008 with the goal of helping 20,000 people who’d lost jobs in the auto and manufacturing sector. Responding to greater than expected demand for retraining, the province has allocated more money to the program, but has also tightened the eligibility criteria. As of March 2010, about 26,000 have benefitted from the program.
Brian is not the only participant in the GDP project to be going through a recession-related career change. In the Newfoundland town of Grand-Falls-Windsor, Stuart and Pauline have responded to the closure of the area’s main employer with a plan to become cranberry farmers. In Montreal, the young trainees in our Workshop story are arming themselves with new skills, preparing to take another shot at a less than friendly job market. And then there’s Aimee, GDP’s queen of reinvention, who’s featured in our photo-essay 100 jobs.
Philip Lewis, researcher-writer