My Swedish Apprenticeship in Canada (CBC’s Generation Jobless)


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by Karolyn Hart

CBC recently produced a great documentary called “Generation Jobless“. It was brought to me by a highly educated millennial in my life who has been on their own painful journey of being under-employed.  It touches on all the major workforce issues that have been on my radar for some time now.

I’ve always known that my career path was unusual.  I originally left home to attend school with the desire of becoming a missionary abroad.  I ended up with a professional career, and an eclectic skill set that has allowed me the flexibility to reinvent myself on more than one occasion – and it all started with a company’s decision to invest in me.

I’ve always known that my story was unique.  It’s hard to imagine, but there was a time in Waterloo, Ontario where the large Fortune 500 companies weren’t demanding computer science degrees in young students from their local university in order to get work in IT.  Yet, back in the 1990’s this was the case, and fortunately for me, resulted in my unexpected professional career.

I started my career stuffing envelopes in one of those large Fortune 500 companies and a series of events later I found myself taking an assessment and qualifying to work in IT – specifically tech support.  I remember the manager at the time outwardly expressing their pleasure that I had “not” taken any computer science because it won’t only mean they would have to “re-teach me everything”. The legacy systems I would be supporting required custom training and it would be easier for me to learn with no preconceived notions.

It was in every sense a win-win situation.  The company heavily invested in my training which included grueling 8-hour days in the presence of trainers, followed by heavy reading at night.  A few short months later, however, I was taking my first support calls under the watchful eye of a supervisor.  It was a win-win situation.

The investment from the company provided them with a trained employee that was able to produce for them exactly what they needed.  On my side, I was rewarded with a paying career and my student debt from religious studies was significantly reduced. (Can you say “divine intervention”?)

I always felt blessed for my journey but in Sweden my experience is the norm.  It is also why, according to the documentary produced by CBC, that their youth unemployment sits at 2.8%.  Here in Canada, it appears that today’s employers would consider the idea of investing in an employee with training and on the job experience gratuitous.

What the company understood that hired me, that today’s employers MUST understand, is the return on investment received for their initial up front investment.  At no point did that employer ever fear about not being able to have adequate resources to meet their goals.  They were in a constant state of preparedness and able to beat out competition who struggled to find the talent.

In today’s world, company’s who take on the Swedish Apprenticeship approach here in Canada will likely find themselves at the top.  While their competition has to pass up work due to a lack of workforce, they will be reaping the financial benefits of being able to grow and expand.

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