5. Insights on the challenges faced by youth in Alberta

Young people have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 shock across the world. Youth unemployment1 surged dramatically in OECD countries at the beginning of the pandemic, with hours worked by young people decreasing by 26%, almost twice as much as the observed decrease for prime-aged and older workers (15%) (OECD, 2022[1]). Although most of the lost ground has been recovered during the last two years, the recovery of young people’s employment lags behind that of older adults. The disruption in school-to-work transition programs, such as apprenticeships and work-based learning, due to the economic uncertainty and financial difficulties faced by employers, has made it harder for young people to transit from education to the labour market in recent years (OECD, 2022[1]).

The challenges faced by youth in the current context are of particular relevance for Alberta as it is the Canadian province with the youngest population with a median age of 38 years (in the country as a whole the median age reaches 42 (Statistics Canada, 2022[2])). Some 31% of Alberta’s population is aged 24 years or below, while this share for Canada as a whole is, on average, nearly 28% (Figure 5.1).

As pointed out in Chapter 1, the dual shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse in oil prices in March and April of 2020 severely impacted the province’s labour market. This shock was even more pronounced for young Albertans. The labour force participation rate for people aged 15 to 24 decreased severely at the onset of the pandemic from 65% in February 2020 (its average level since 2017) to 49% in April 2020 (Statistics Canada, 2022[4]). This sudden reduction in the share of young people participating in the labour market (-16 percentage points) was larger than that for the country’s average (-13 percentage points) in the same period, suggesting more challenges for Alberta’s youth to remain in the labour market amid the pandemic. Despite a sharp recovery – the youth participation rate was about 64% in October 2020 – it still remained below the pre-pandemic levels up until the beginning of 2022.

Youth unemployment in Alberta peaked at 30.9% in May 2020, a figure that is more than double the rate in February 2020 (14.4%). High youth unemployment persisted through 2020 as shown by the average youth unemployment rate of 24% for the year, which represents an increase of 11 percentage points respect to the average for 2019 (12.6%). In the same period, the average unemployment rate for the population in Alberta aged 25 or over increased 3.5 percentage points, from 6.1% in 2019 to 9.6% in 2020 (Statistics Canada, 2022[4]). This result partly responds to a higher representation of young people in sectors highly affected by the pandemic (e.g. retail trade or accommodation and food services), as well as because young people are often the first workers to be laid off when companies need restructuring (Statistics Canada, 2021[5]).

While the pandemic has certainly represented an unprecedented negative shock to Alberta’s labour market, the total and youth unemployment rates in Alberta have been typically above those for Canada as a whole since January 2016 (see Figure 5.2). Notably, the unemployment rate for Albertans aged 15 to 24 significantly deteriorated even before the start of the pandemic, going from 11% in June 2019 to 15% in December 2019.

The relevance of the mining, oil & gas extraction sector in the province’s economy – representing nearly 27% of the annual GDP of Alberta (Government of Canada, 2022[6])– can contribute to explain this result. Recent evidence about the dependence of Alberta’s employment on oil prices volatility shows that the employment in oil & gas, professional services, construction, and accommodation and food services is especially sensitive to oil price fluctuations (Scheer et al., 2022[7]). Consequently, low global oil prices in 2019 could have contributed to the surge in youth unemployment in key sectors for Alberta’s employment generation, such as accommodation and food services and construction (along with retail trade they are the top youth employers in the period 2015-2022).2

In this context, designing effective ways to support youth to transition from school to work is a priority. Amid a rapidly ageing population, youth represent an untapped pool of new talent struggling to find good quality jobs. Since the length and quality of the schooling that individuals receive is one of the factors directly affecting the school-to-work transition, it is fundamental for education systems to ensure that individuals can build the skills that are currently needed in the labour market by firms and employers.

However, many analyses aiming to support youth to transition from school to work have been focusing on the supply side of education addressing, for instance, issues related to the quality of education as a driver for smoother transitions. On the contrary, analyses of the demand side, focusing on the availability of jobs for young people and their main characteristics (i.e. the demand for skills, education, experience in jobs that are plausible for younger people) are relatively scarcer and tend to be outdated and too aggregated for policy makers and stakeholders to receive timely and granular insights that supports policies and innovations in this front.

Online job postings (OJPs)3 can provide insights about current demands of occupations and skills in Alberta, with a particular emphasis on those jobs that are more accessible for young people with little or no work experience.

Leveraging thousands of OJPs advertised in Canada and Alberta between January 2015 and September 2022, this chapter focuses on identifying those job postings that are more plausible to be offered to young people either because they are part of school-to-work transition programs or because the experience required is low. The granularity of the data allows for tracking the labour market demand that is more accessible to the youth workforce and to identify the sectors and occupations where most of those positions are advertised, their accompanying skill demands, and the conditions offered (i.e. full-time or part-time), among other characteristics.

Identifying job postings accessible to people aged between 15 and 24 years represents a significant challenge since OJPs do not include information that directly signals that a job is specifically looking for people in a determined age range. In order to achieve this result, this chapter develops a classification rule based on two complementary criteria, exploiting i) the information contained in the job title of each job posting and ii) the maximum work experience required in the description of the job posting.

First, using job titles, this chapter selects OJPs that contain keywords associated with jobs that are likely to be accessible (or targeting) young people such as entry-level programmes. For instance, OJPs including, in any part of the title, at least one keyword such as “Student”, “Trainee”, “Traineeship”, “Apprentice”, “Apprenticeship”, “Intern”, “Internship”, “Co-op” (from co-operative education), “Graduate” or “Entry Level” have been classified as youth-accessible jobs.4 A description of these programmes is provided in Box 5.1.

As a complementary criterion, this rule also selects, from the remaining OJPs, those job offers explicitly seeking people with a maximum experience of one year or less. Explicitly mentions of a maximum number of years of experience in an OJP can be a strong signal from employers that they are looking for low-experienced, and likely young, individuals for entry-level positions.5 For simplicity, from now on, the OJPs selected in the steps above will be named YAPs (youth-accessible postings).

The labour-market demand in Alberta and Canada, tracked by the quarterly amount of OJPs advertised, shows a divergence in trends between YAPs and non-YAPs during the period preceding the pandemic (2015-2019). Whilst non-YAPs remained stable in this period, youth-accessible postings increased in 2016-2017 but started a decreasing trend in 2018 that extended until late 2020 (Figure 5.4). Notably, however, the large shock to labour markets induced by the pandemic led to an inversion in this trend. Both YAPs and non-YAPs in both Alberta and Canada started to grow positively in 2021-Q1 as the Canadian and Albertan economies started to recover the lost ground during the pandemic, boosted by a strong household demand and higher oil prices.

The different trends of YAPs relative to the rest of OJPs in the pre-pandemic period can be attributed to two reasons. On the one hand, during 2016 and 2017, the demand for YAPs in some sectors in Alberta (i.e. retail trade) increased significantly while non-YAPs remained stable (Figure 5.6, Panel A). This sector-specific trends contrast with the overall economic situation in the province, as GDP shrunk by 3.6% in 2016 following a negative shock in oil prices in 2014 and 2015.6 In that year, unemployment worsened as most of the economic sectors saw a marked loss of jobs, with the notable exception of key sectors for youth employment, such as retail trade and educational services (Statistics Canada, 2022[4]), which, instead, expanded the demand for YAPs.

On the other hand, YAPs advertised in Alberta in 2019 remained below 2015 levels, while the rest of online job postings passed that threshold in the same year. This divergence can be traced back to differences in employment creation across main sectors and the importance of youth employment on each of them. Specifically, the healthcare and social assistance sector – the top employer in Alberta – led the employment creation in the province for 2019, offsetting the job losses in the construction and oil and gas sectors (Government of Alberta, 2020[13]). This dynamic, however, did not fully apply for youth employment. The construction sector, for instance, experienced a significant decrease in youth employment (Statistics Canada, 2022[4]), as well as in the number of YAPs (Figure 5.6, Panel D), which is partially associated to uncertainty about oil prices and investment decisions in the oil sector that affected both residential and non-residential construction subsectors (BuildForce Canada, 2020[14]). This decrease was nearly five times higher than the youth employment increase in the healthcare sector (Statistics Canada, 2022[4]).

More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic represented a major shock for YAPs in Alberta. Figure 5.4 (Panel A) shows that the province’s YAPs between 2020-Q2 and 2020-Q4 represented less than half the number of YAPs in 2015-Q1, the lowest levels since that date, while non-YAPs showed a more moderate decrease. These results suggest that the pandemic disproportionally impacted the demand for jobs more accessible for youth, most likely due to a higher representation of young people in industries heavily affected by the COVID-19 crisis, as pointed out in different studies (OECD, 2021[15]) and (Statistics Canada, 2021[5]).

Alberta’s labour market rebounded after the 2020 crisis. As the economy reopened, the unemployment rate started declining and by July 2022 it reached the lowest levels in recent years (Figure 5.2), signalling a strong recovery as well as increasing pressures to find new talent. Figure 5.4 shows an unprecedented increase in the amount of both YAPs and non-YAPs positions with the volume of OJPs in Alberta for 2022-Q3 representing three times the volume in 2015-Q1. In addition, the recent spike in oil prices, as a consequence of the global energy crisis, has likely contributed to the recovery of labour market’s demand.

The overall trends of jobs accessible for youth in Alberta depend, to some extent, on differences in the demand across economic sectors. Figure 5.5 and Figure 5.6 provide an in-depth analysis of the demand across the sectors that show the highest average number of YAPs in the province between 2015 and 2022.

Retail trade is the top youth employer in Alberta according to official employment figures (Statistics Canada, 2022[4]), which is confirmed by the analysis of OJPs as the sector accounts for approximately 16% of the YAPs. The demand for youth-accessible jobs in retail trade experienced a significant increase in 2016 and 2017, with YAPs in the second semester of 2016 representing nearly three times those advertised in the first semester of 2015 (Figure 5.6, Panel A). This result is in line with expansion plans from key employers in the sector, as some of the YAPs advertised in this period are from companies that reportedly made investments and generated a large number of jobs across Canada in these years (see Newswire Cision (2016[16])). After the pandemic, both YAPs and non-YAPs in retail trade have increased consistently with the strong demand shown in Alberta’s labour market. However, this increase has been stronger in non-YAPs, while YAPs remain below the levels seen in 2015.

The oil and gas industry is a significant source of youth-accessible employment opportunities, ranking second in importance in Alberta. The sector accounts for approximately 14% of youth accessible postings (as shown in Figure 5.5, Panel B). The demand for both YAPs and non-YAPs has been affected by recent oil price fluctuations. Both saw a substantial rise in the first half of 2021 (Figure 5.6, Panel B) due to a rebound in international prices as the economy recovered post-pandemic and the impact of the global energy crisis. However, YAPs in Q1 2022 were only slightly higher than in early 2015 (when Alberta’s oil and gas sector faced the 2014-2015 oil price shock), while non-YAPs in the same period were nearly 2.5 times the level seen at the beginning of 2015.

Vacancies in both YAPs and non-YAPs have risen, and employment figures show that the oil and gas sector saw a significant increase in total employment in 2021 and 2022, reaching levels seen in 2019. However, youth employment has not kept pace and remains lower compared to employment in other age cohorts (Statistics Canada, 2022[4]). This mismatch between youth employment and demand, as indicated by the number of YAPs relative to employment figures, reinforce the claims of reported shortages in the sector. Companies are facing difficulties hiring and retaining employees, particularly for entry-level positions, leading to declined projects and recruitment from other provinces (Government of Canada, 2022[17]).

Construction is one of the most important employers of young people in Alberta. This sector accounts for nearly 9% of all employees aged 15 to 24, according to official statistics (Statistics Canada, 2022[4]). Similarly, YAPs in this sector represented almost 10% of the total number of youth-accessible job postings advertised in the province during 2015 and 2022. In contrast with most of the other sectors, YAPs in construction have consistently grown at a higher rate than the rest of OJPs since the first semester of 2017 (Figure 5.6, Panel D), suggesting a strong demand for youth workforce in recent years.

As previously mentioned, the decrease in YAPs in 2019 was associated with poor youth employment outcomes in the construction sector due to high oil price volatility and uncertainty that affected both residential and non-residential projects (BuildForce Canada, 2020[14]). However, after the COVID-19 pandemic, OJPs in construction experienced unprecedented growth. YAPs in the first half of 2021 for the construction sector were four times higher than in early 2015, while non-YAPs were about three times higher. This contrasts with modest increases in youth employment in the sector in recent years, which have, instead, remained below 2019 levels. This suggests that workforce shortages have limited the growth of youth employment in the construction sector despite strong demand.

Overall, most of the top-six sectors with the highest number of youth-accessible postings show unprecedented increases after the pandemic in Alberta’s labour-market demand as high energy prices have played a significant role in strengthen economic recovery (Government of Canada, 2021[18]). In the short term, labour shortages could continue to represent a challenge for Alberta’s employment and economic growth, as it was in 2022 (Government of Alberta, 2022[19]).

In the medium term, the link between oil prices and the labour market could imply major challenges for the province’s labour market. Since the transition out of non-renewable energies have emerged as a priority in the global agenda, a decreased and more volatile global oil demand is likely to put jobs across different economic sectors on risk (Scheer et al., 2022[7]). This is particularly relevant for Alberta’s youth that will face this transition in the next years. In that sense, it is paramount to support programs to ease the transition away from oil-dependence. For instance, plans aiming to build transversal skills in youth for strengthen individuals’ resilience to change (i.e. cognitive, communication and organisational skills) can contribute to more successful reskilling programs in the future.

The previous section addressed the evolution in the demand for YAPs in Alberta suggesting the existence of important dynamics over time and key differences across economic sectors. This section aims to explore in greater detail the information provided in the full text of OJPs, using this rich information to characterise the professional profile required by enterprises when advertising a youth-accessible postings. For this purpose, this section explores the qualifications and degrees that are generally more required by employers across all the profiles posted online, and the type of contracts offered by companies hiring youth. This section also provides a full analysis of the skill bundles typically required in YAPs to characterise what types of skills are demanded in jobs that are accessible to youth in Alberta.

The composition of required qualifications and degrees in Alberta’s YAPs does not differ significantly from the results for the total amount of OJPs in the province (shown in Figure 1.4 in Chapter 1). Figure 5.7 shows that job postings requiring a bachelor or college degree as a minimum qualification represented, on average, 50% of YAPs in Alberta for the period preceding the pandemic (2015-2019), while 41% of them required high school education.7 Approximately 5% of YAPs were seeking for a candidate with at least master’s degree.

The effect of the pandemic on the demand for young workers was heterogeneous across individuals with different education levels. The average number of quarterly YAPs requiring at least a high school certificate in 2020 decreased by approximately 50% relative to the level in 2019. For YAPs requiring at least a bachelor or college degree this decline was nearly 25%. These results are consistent with the fact that on-the-job training schemes that do not require bachelor’s degrees, such as apprenticeships, are likely to be more affected by mobility restrictions and lockdowns in 2020. This kind of programmes, in fact, heavily rely on practical and hands-on training to build specific skills (Indeed, 2022[9]), which did not fit well the “remote working” arrangements that were put in place to overcome the negative effects of the lockdown restrictions (especially in blue-collar jobs). As a result, according to official data (Statistics Canada, 2021[20]), the number of new enrolments in apprenticeships programs in Alberta decreased 34% in the 2019-2020 period, 5 percentage points higher than that for Canada as a whole (29%).

The post-pandemic period led to a strong recovery of the demand for young professionals with significantly larger differences across educational levels than in the pre-pandemic period. Mirroring the results for the total amount of OJPs in Alberta, also YAPs requiring lower education certificates or degrees grew much faster in 2021 and 2022 than the rest of YAPs. Specifically, youth-accessible postings requiring high school certificate grew 51% in 2021 and tripled in 2022, while those requiring bachelor grew 15% and 78% respectively in those two years. This result implied a change in the composition of YAPs qualification requirements. In 2022, YAPs requiring high school certificates accounted for more than half of the YAPs for the first time since 2016. This change can be linked to both the high demand in sectors typically demanding low-skilled workers (i.e. construction) and the shortages of qualified workers that Alberta is facing recently in different industries (Business Council of Alberta, 2022[21]) which may have forced some employers to broaden their qualification requirements to include workers with lower qualifications.

The type of contract offered in OJPs is one signal that can be used to assess the quality of the jobs offered by enterprises to youth. This section examines two important aspects of YAPs contracts: job stability8 (permanent or temporary) and hours of work (full-time or part-time9). Especially when they are not voluntarily sought by applicants, temporary jobs arrangements are often indicators of inferior quality as compared to permanent positions, raising concerns about the quality of these positions (ILO, n.d.[22]).

Figure 5.8 shows the annual growth rate of the average number of quarterly YAPs and non-YAPs in Alberta during the period between 2015 and 2022. Following the increase in the positions offered in the retail trade sector in 2017, both YAPs and non-YAPs showed a significant increase in the number of OJPs offering permanent and temporary contracts, with a higher increase in the latter (Figure 5.8, Panel A). Besides, in that year, full-time contracts increased in both types of OJPs while part-time contracts remained relatively more stable (Figure 5.8, Panel B). However, in 2018 the demand in the retail sector decreased significantly (Figure 5.5), which is likely to explain the decline in all types of YAPs contracts, especially those with temporary and part-time arrangements.

More recently, the unprecedented expansion in Alberta’s labour market demand after the pandemic has shown some differences between the type of contracts offered in YAPs and the rest of OJPs. Specifically, temporary contracts for YAPs have grown faster while in non-YAPs permanent contracts have taken the lead. This result suggests that youth are likely to have faced more challenges to find quality jobs recently.

Technological and demographic changes are constantly reshaping labour markets across the world. For instance, new developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are expected to affect the employment prospects of low skilled workers employed in routinary occupations – some of which will be likely replaced by robots- but also workers in non-routinary and high-level cognitive jobs that require more specific skills, such as drafting, coding, text analysis, among others.10 In this context, a lifelong learning11 approach is key for individuals to adapt and succeed in such a changing environment. Building transversal skills that facilitates future reskilling or develop key technical skills that meet enterprises’ needs require constant learning in different stages of life.

In the specific case of youth, career guidance and orientation contribute to lifelong learning by providing information to young people on the different occupations, skills and knowledge required in the labour market. These programmes ease the transition from school to work by helping young individuals to realise how their long-term life objectives match with present and future employers’ needs (OECD, 2021[23]). For this purpose, it is essential to have timely and granular information that contributes to characterise professional profiles according to employers’ specific needs in different career areas.

The information contained in online job postings allows to extract the detailed skills, technologies and technical knowledge required by firms in professional profiles that are more accessible and relevant for youth. This section investigates these skill demands by focusing on broad occupational categories that are more likely to be accessible to youth in Alberta. The analysis below leverages the Lightcast classification that aggregates job postings into 27 different career areas (see Box 2.1 in Chapter 2).12

Figure 5.9 compares the average yearly number of YAPs and the average yearly rate of growth by career area for the period 2015-22. Out of 24 different career areas available in the data for Alberta, three areas emerge as the most accessible for youth: i) sales, ii) education and training, and iii) engineering, with more than 250 YAPs published per year and an average growth rate ranging between 10% and 30%. This result is in line with the overall evolution of YAPs per economic sector in Figure 5.6, where retail trade, education services and mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction, are the main sectors that advertise YAPs. Differently from education and training and engineering careers, it is worth noticing that the sales sector has experienced a relatively weaker growth in the period in the period in between 2015 and 2022 (11%), probably associated to the rapid expansion of e-commerce after the pandemic. In contrast, the demand in the education and engineering sectors has grown at a much faster pace, with average yearly growth rates of around 25% in the period in between 2015 and 2022.

Finance; business, management and operations; and clerical and administrative complete the top six career areas with strongest demand for youth in Alberta. These areas show an average number of YAPs ranging between 130 and 170 and yearly growth rates around 15% and 30%. Specifically, the business, management and operations area has grown at an average rate of 27% per year. This area includes occupations such as order pickers and warehouse workers, typically hired in logistics companies that are likely to have faced an increase in demand as a result of the expansion in e-commerce during and after the pandemic.

Figure 5.10 offers a complementary view, as it shows the evolution of each career area’s share over the annual number of youth-accessible postings divided in two groups: major urban centres (Calgary and Edmonton service regions13) and rest of Alberta. Even though the first group represents 80% of YAPs posted (as these areas are the main economic centres in the province), this geographic classification is also relevant to assess how the demand for professionals in different career areas has evolved in less populated areas of Alberta.

Information from job postings suggest that these groups share a similar composition of YAPs. The three main career areas in Alberta (sales, education and training, and engineering) account for 50% of the youth-accessible postings between 2015 and 2022 in both major urban areas and the rest of Alberta. Specifically, in 2016 and 2017 the sales area represented approximately 40% of YAPs in both groups, which is likely to be linked with the high demand in the retail trade sector for these years (see Figure 5.5). However, in the years following this unprecedented high demand the yearly shares of the sales area has continuously decreased, especially in the major urban areas where demand represented only 14% of YAPs advertised in 2022.

The share of the education and training area has increased in recent years in both groups, representing in 2022 nearly 16% of YAPs in major urban areas and 13% in the rest of Alberta. As shown before in Figure 5.6 (Panel E), YAPs in the educational services sector have increased in most of the period of analysis (only affected during the pandemic), which contrasts with a stable, or even decreasing, trend in non-YAPs in the years preceding the pandemic. An in-depth look to the job titles of YAPs in this sector shows that employers seek for student assistants, monitors and students for co-operative education programmes (Co-Op), as discussed in more detail below and shown in Table 5.1.

Nevertheless, Figure 5.10 also shows some differences between the two groups. In major urban centres, finance; business, management and operations; and clerical and administrative are also among the top career areas demanded. They account for an additional 17% of YAPs posted in Calgary and Edmonton service regions. Job titles in these areas include accounting students, entry level insurance sales agents, warehouse workers, order fillers/pickers, among others. In contrast, in the rest of Alberta, healthcare; clerical and administrative; and maintenance, repair and installation career areas are more relevant (Figure 5.10). These three areas represents an additional 16% of YAPs posted in this group. Examples of job titles in these areas include graduate nurses, (entry-level) laboratory technicians, shop technicians and administrative assistants. In both groups, the shares of these areas have remained stable across years.

This section focuses on Alberta as a whole and explores the province’s main career areas, providing information at this aggregation level about the mix of professional and technical skills typically relevant in these positions. Job requirements often pool together both technical and professional/transversal skills. Several technical skills are usually at the core of a profession. Young professionals in finance, for instance, typically require specialised knowledge in accounting, taxes and capital management; while people working in sales require knowledge of merchandising, sales management and retail industry.

Transversal skills are, instead, not related to a particular job or discipline, being used across different work settings. They, in fact, play a great role in strengthening individuals’ resilience to change in labour markets but typically they are not the core of the skill requirements of any occupation. The OECD provides a methodological approach to identify skills with a higher degree of transversality across different occupations applying machine learning and mathematical tools to the analysis of texts contained in OJPs (OECD, 2021[23]). Figure 5.11 uses a selection of key transversal skills (i.e. leadership, organisational, communication, analytical, etc.) to show (Panel A) their relevance for each one the main career areas for youth-accessible jobs in Alberta (see Annex C for more detail on the relevance assessment).

Figure 5.11 (Panel B) also shows the five technical skills with high relevance scores for YAPs in each career area. Since these skills are very specific for each career area, their relevance scores tend to be higher (ranging between 0.3 and 0.6) than in the case of transversal skills. Interestingly, however, the way occupations bundle (i.e. demanded in conjunction) transversal and technical skills can determine, to some extent, their returns in the labour market. Recent research shows, for instance, that transversal skills are typically associated to higher wage returns in particular in occupations where technical skills are also very relevant (OECD, 2021[23]).

The sales area is among the largest pool of opportunities for youth, accounting for 27% of the YAPs in Alberta between January 2015 and September 2022. According to the Lightcast Occupation Taxonomy, some of the main occupations for youth in this group includes retail store managers/supervisors, sales representatives and retail sales associates. A close look into the job titles of these YAPs reveals that employers looking to fill positions in those occupations seek, among other more qualified professionals, also entry level sales representatives, assistants to store managers and sales trainees. Table 5.1 shows in detail the main occupations demanded in YAPs per career area in 2021 and provides examples of job titles.

When looking at the transversal and technical skills that young people need in YAPs in sales, Figure 5.11 (Panel A) indicates that their importance is similar to the skills required for all the other job openings advertised in this field. Leadership and organisational skills are particularly relevant for sales occupations while teamwork is the least relevant transversal skill across youth-accessible positions.14 When turning to the technical skill requirements, job descriptions highlight the relevance of knowledge about retail industry, sales and store management practices, being these particularly relevant for young candidates to access sales jobs (Figure 5.11, Panel B). It is important to notice that the relevance score of knowledge about the retail industry differs between YAPs and the total OJPs, which suggest that this skill is more required in senior positions as expected.

Jobs in the education and training career area represent nearly 12% of YAPs in Alberta. This professional area include positions in charge of planning, managing and providing education services and learning support services (O*NET, 2016[24]), something that facilitates the advertisement of job offers for students in positions aimed to support teaching activities. Table 5.1 shows some of the main occupations plausible for youth in this area, including university administrators, college professor/instructors and vocational education instructors. More specifically, job titles show a high demand for student monitors, summer students and articling students for law schools.

Organisational, presentation and analytical skills are relatively more relevant than the rest of transversal skills for these roles aiming to support research and teaching activities in schools, universities and other education institutions. In contrast, when comparing YAPs with all the OJPs advertised in this area, communication skills become more relevant, as this is likely to be one of the key skills required for more experienced professors and instructors in academic institutions (Figure 5.11, Panel A). More specific (technical) skills for these positions include teaching knowledge; productivity tools, such as Microsoft Office and Google Docs; as well as coding tools such as Jupyter Notebooks, that is widely used in the academia to create, teach and share data projects, including machine learning and data visualisation.

The engineering area accounts for 9% of the YAPs in Alberta, with some of the main occupations including civil, mechanical and electrical engineers and technicians. Most of the YAPs advertised in this area in 2021 were for positions as graduate engineers (mainly in civil engineering) and co-operation education (co-op) programmes’ students. The relevance of co-op programs in engineering YAPs is in line with local initiatives such as the University of Alberta’s Engineering Co-op Programme, established in 1981 and one of the largest co-operative education programmes in Canada (University of Alberta, 2023[25]).

Some of the most relevant skills for youth-accessible jobs in the engineering area are teamwork, analytical and organisational skills. This result significantly diverges from the main transversal skills required when including all the OJPs in engineering. In the case of more senior positions, leadership, problem-solving and presentation are found to be more relevant, which suggest the need for youth to develop a broader set of transversal skills when going up the occupational ladder. In YAPs, transversal skills are bundled with technical skills, such as engineering practices, drafting and engineering design and project commissioning (as shown in Figure 5.11, Panel B). Project commissioning, for instance, refers to a group of engineering techniques and procedures to inspect and test every operational component of a project (Price et al., 2021[26]).

A smaller proportion (6%) of YAPs are in the area of business management and operations. Occupations in this area range from warehouse workers to buyers and logistics analysts. According to job titles extracted from job postings, some common entry-level positions in youth-accessible postings include order fillers/pickers, who ensure the accuracy of customer orders in a warehouse, and entry-level labourers who perform manual tasks.

Overall, across business management and operations YAPs, the transversal skills leadership and presentation show the highest scores, although transversal skill are relatively less relevant in these positions. However, when considering both YAPs and non-YAPs, communication, organisational, and problem-solving skills become more relevant for the occupations included in this area for older cohorts and workers with longer experience. These skills are, in fact, likely to be more related to occupations in the business management area, such as project managers or co-ordinators. Additionally, material handling, logistics, and order management are some of the main technical skills required for these positions.

The finance area represents an additional 6% of YAPs in Alberta. The main youth-plausible jobs in this field are entry-level accountants, branch managers (trainees), and articling students in financial institutions (Table 5.1). The distribution of relevance scores across transversal skills for financial occupations are similar to those from the engineering area. Analytical, problem-solving, and organisational skills are the most relevant transversal skills for these positions. This bundle of skills does not differ significantly when including all the other job postings in the area, with the exception of presentation skills becoming more relevant in the overall sample of OJPs. The key technical skills for youth-accessible financial positions are mainly related to accounting knowledge.

Finally, the area of clerical and administrative occupations includes positions such as administrative assistant, supervisors, and receptionists, among others. The specific job titles for YAPs in Alberta are mainly administrative assistants and data entry clerks. Communication and organisational skills stand out as the key transversal skills in this area, which are typically combined with specific skills regarding knowledge in administrative tasks and support.

In a rapidly changing labour market, it is key for individuals to adapt effectively to recent changes and ensure that they are able to move from declining occupations to others that are expected to thrive following labour-market demand changes. In addition to build transversal skills that contribute to smooth the transition process, reskilling and upskilling efforts are necessary to acquire the skills required to transition from declining to fast-growing occupations.

This section investigates an example of such career moves using the concept of “occupation clusters”. It does so by identifying a set of occupations that share similar skill requirements, which is likely to contribute to a smoother career transition due to the overlap in skill demands.

The similarity assessment between occupations uses the same approach used for the calculation of skill relevance scores (see Annex C). The analysis focuses on a specific pair of occupations, one for which labour market prospects are declining (the origin occupation: administrative assistants) and another that is, instead, thriving and increasing in demand (business/management analysts). The analysis below also presents other alternative occupations that are similar to the origin and destination occupations and that could also be viable career transitions. These occupations represent the declining and thriving clusters.

Specifically, the Canadian Occupation Projection System -COPS- (Government of Canada, 2021[27]) expects the demand for administrative assistants to decrease on average 1.6% per year between 2022 and 2028. In Alberta, most recent job prospects for the next two years in this occupation shows a “limited” demand (Government of Canada, 2022[28]), which is likely to respond to the possibility that routinary activities typically performed in this occupation (i.e. scheduling appointments, drafting correspondence or providing information to callers) will be soon replaced by machines and algorithms. In contrast, the demand for business management analysts is expected to increase on average 1.3% per year, according to the COPS. Specific prospects from the Government of Canada for this occupation in Alberta are considered “good”, based in an expected increasing demand to help businesses find and improve inefficiencies while transitioning to a post-pandemic world (Government of Alberta, 2022[29]).

Figure 5.12 shows the clusters for both origin and destination occupations (central bubbles). Around each central bubble are their most similar occupations among the top 20 occupations with higher demand for YAPs including the expected average growth rate defined by the COPS. The dotted lines that connect the bubbles include the occupation similarity index calculated between each pair of occupations.

The declining cluster includes those occupations similar to administrative assistants, in term of skills required, that are also expected to have a relatively low demand. Bookkeeper / accounting clerks presents the higher similarity index with administrative assistants, where their demand is expected to increase only by 0.9% per year until 2028. Since bookkeepers perform routine accounting and financial tasks, such as recording transactions, organise records and data, they are also expected to be replaced by AI-powered accounting software that will reduce the enterprises’ need for these profiles.

At the other end of the spectrum in Figure 5.12, several occupations are expected to grow in the coming years and are yet relatively accessible for youth. Most of those occupations (right side of the chart) are in the area of business, human resources or software development. The closest occupation, in terms of skill requirements, to administrative assistants is that of business / management analysts which also shows both a higher demand outlook and a thriving cluster of similar occupations.15

A career transition from administrative assistants to business management analysts requires the acquisition of a variety of financial and management skills, many of which may require some significant upskilling or retraining. Table 5.2 ranks the most relevant skills for a management analyst by the difference between the relevance indices for a given skill between both occupations. This difference is used as a proxy of the training intensity needed to an administrative assistant to transit to it.

Given the relatively low similarity index between origin and destination occupations, the transition from administrative assistants to Business/management analysts require a high intensity of retraining as some underlying skills requirements are typically far apart. Results from the analysis of skill similarities between these occupations show, for instance, the need for significant training in consulting, business intelligence and process and analysis. On the contrary, a relatively less effort would be necessary to upskill in competences associated to information management, IT management and ad hoc analysis, which refers to business intelligence tools designed to create specific (non-regular) reports (LinkedIn, 2020[30]).

Labour market transitions play a crucial role in an individual’s career development and overall well-being, as well as in the functioning of the economy and the labour market as a whole. Smooth transitions can lead to increased job satisfaction, higher earnings, and better economic outcomes, while disruptions and difficulties during transitions can result in unemployment, reduced earnings, and reduced economic mobility. Analyses presented in this section show one of many examples of such possible transitions in Alberta, based on similarity measures of skills demands. Many more combinations between origin and destination occupations can be analysed, but those cannot be contained in a report. With this in mind, the OECD has developed a data visualisation tool that allows users to compare any given pair of occupations in the data and their skill demands. The data visualisation provides key information about both technical and transversal skills in the selected pair of origin-destination occupations and can be used to identify areas where training is typically needed to make a career switch. This tool can be accessed for free on the OECD publication page for this report.

The analysis above characterised the economic sectors that are currently likely to offer more opportunities to youth, as well as the career areas and skills more demanded in youth-accessible positions in Alberta. However, policies and strategies oriented to prepare the labour market of the future need to consider how these demands are aligned with the recent trends in the Alberta’s labour market that have been discussed in previous chapters of this review and how they are expected to evolve with the mega-trends reshaping labour markets and societies.

One example is the retail sector. While this sector remains one of the largest employers in Alberta, the expansion of e-commerce and online shopping, exacerbated by the pandemic may have contributed to the recent declines in the demand for workers (see Table 2.1 in Chapter 2) and the relatively weak average growth in YAPs in the sales area (see Figure 5.9). Rapid technological developments and a more widespread adoption of e-commerce may reduce the demand in some of the key occupations for youth in early stages of their careers (such as sales representatives/associates or retail store supervisors).

Digitalisation and the expansion of e-commerce, however, can contribute to the rapid increase in the demand for workers in the transportation and warehousing sector. As shown in Chapter 3, occupations such as dispatchers, order entry clerks, schedulers and drivers experienced significant growth in the pre-pandemic period (see Table 3.1 in Chapter 3). Some of the key occupations for youth employment in the business, management and operations area (i.e. order entry clerks and warehouse workers) will hence likely continue to face an increase in their demand in Alberta’s labour market. Technical skills associated with these occupations, such as logistics, general shipping and receiving or order management will likely become increasingly relevant in Alberta’s labour market (see Figure 5.11).

The importance of the mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction sector in Alberta’s economy and the high growth in OJPs from this sector in recent years explains, to some extent, the high demand for workers in key areas for youth accessible postings, such as engineering and business, management and operations. Figure 2.4 (in Chapter 2) shows that these areas represented nearly 30% of the OJPs published by employers in this sector in the period 2017-20. In addition, Figure 5.6 shows the unprecedented acceleration in both YAPs and non-YAPs in the mining sector in the period following the pandemic. The good performance of this sector, given the context of high international commodity prices, is likely to continue benefiting engineering occupations that youth can access as graduate engineers or through co-operative education (co-op) programmes (Table 5.1).

However, as countries invest in the transition to a greener and more sustainable economy, employees in the oil and gas sector will also need to go through significant retraining and upskilling as these industries will evolve in the coming years and some jobs will be lost to other sectors. Efforts to support the development of technical skills, such as the EDGE UP programme in Calgary, that provide training in new digital skills to former oil-and-gas workers that help them to fulfil jobs in the digital technology sector (EDGE Up, 2022[31]) will become increasingly necessary. They can be complemented with increasing emphasis on the development of transversal skills (i.e. cognitive, communication or organisational skills) in youth.

While the analysis of the most relevant skills across career areas is key to understanding skill demands in YAPs today, mega-trends such as digitalisation, automation and the adoption of AI are certainly going to reshape most of those demands in the future and up to date labour market information will be needed to adjust to such changes in the future. As pointed out in Chapter 4, advanced data analytics (i.e. AI, big data, machine learning, etc.) and programming (i.e. software development, scripting languages, etc.) skills are becoming increasingly relevant in Alberta’s labour market, showing high levels of diffusion across different occupations (see Figures 4.17 and 4.18). In contrast, analyses of OJPs reveal that several skills are becoming obsolete due to these technological advancements and changes in the economic structure, which can lead to job displacement.

In this context, developing adequate Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and cognitive skills to interact with AI and digital tools is becoming increasingly relevant in labour markets. Individuals, and among these youth, will need to learn how to apply these tools in different tasks, not exclusively related with programming or advanced analytics skills but also to abilities and competencies to use these tools effectively and efficiently while mitigating the risks of misuse (bias, cyber risks, fakes, etc.). Retraining and lifelong learning programmes can help individuals and youth to acquire the skills and knowledge needed for in-demand jobs in growing industries, allowing them to make a successful transition to a new job or career.


[34] ALIS Alberta (2023), Occupations in Alberta, https://alis.alberta.ca/occinfo/occupations-in-alberta/ (accessed on  January 2023).

[11] ApprenticeshipUSA (2022), What is the difference between an apprenticeship and an internship?, https://www.apprenticeship.gov/help/what-difference-between-apprenticeship-and-internship (accessed on  January 2023).

[14] BuildForce Canada (2020), Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward, 2020-2029 - Alberta, https://www.buildforce.ca/system/files/forecast_summary_reports/2020%20AB%20Constr%20Maint%20Looking%20Forward.pdf?language=en.

[21] Business Council of Alberta (2022), While still positive, business optimism has softened: Results from the November 2022 Business Expectations Survey, https://businesscouncilab.com/competitive-and-sustainable-economy/while-still-positive-business-optimism-has-softened-results-from-the-november-2022-business-expectations-survey/ (accessed on  January 2023).

[31] EDGE Up (2022), EDGE Up 2.0: A Scaling Opportunity, https://edgeupyyc.com/ (accessed on  2022).

[19] Government of Alberta (2022), Alberta’s short-term employment forecast, https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/61843e6c-f254-4c93-81b2-36d8f03e6a31/resource/c545aa01-09a4-4c11-8ea0-98c096a97eb3/download/lbr-alberta-short-term-employment-forecast-stef-2022-2024.pdf (accessed on  November 2022).

[29] Government of Alberta (2022), Gross Domestic Product by industry, https://economicdashboard.alberta.ca/grossdomesticproduct#type (accessed on  December 2022).

[13] Government of Alberta (2020), Alberta is ready for relaunch | L’Alberta est prête pour la relance, https://www.alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=71348A0F295D8-DA49-AFDF-A55CD044FEE7F8B8 (accessed on  November 2022).

[6] Government of Canada (2022), Alberta Sector Profile: Health Care, https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/trend-analysis/job-market-reports/alberta/sectoral-profile-health-care (accessed on  January 2023).

[17] Government of Canada (2022), Labour Market Bulletin - Alberta: September 2022, https://jobbank-guichetemplois.service.canada.ca/LMBs/202209/WT/LMB_AB_2022_Sep.pdf (accessed on  November 2022).

[28] Government of Canada (2022), Respite Worker - Home Support in Alberta, https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/marketreport/outlook-occupation/24583/AB;jsessionid=C21259552BE14E21260815C8DAC17842.jobsearch74 (accessed on  January 2023).

[27] Government of Canada (2021), Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS), https://occupations.esdc.gc.ca/sppc-cops/content.jsp?cid=occupationdatasearch&lang=en (accessed on  January 2023).

[18] Government of Canada (2021), Labour Market Bulletin - Alberta: December 2021, https://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2022/edsc-esdc/em2-2/Em2-2-2021-12-eng.pdf (accessed on  January 2023).

[22] ILO (n.d.), What is temporary employment?, https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/non-standard-employment/WCMS_534826/lang--en/index.htm (accessed on 1 July 2023).

[9] Indeed (2022), Apprenticeship vs. Internship: What’s the Difference?, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/apprenticeship-vs-internship (accessed on  January 2023).

[10] Indeed (2021), What Is the Difference Between a Co-Op and an Internship?, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/co-op-vs-internship (accessed on  January 2023).

[12] Indeed UK (2022), Key differences between a traineeship vs. apprenticeship, https://uk.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/traineeship-vs-apprenticeship (accessed on  January 2023).

[30] LinkedIn (2020), What is ad hoc analysis and reporting, and why should you be careful with it?, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-ad-hoc-analysis-reporting-why-should-you-careful-matthew-gierc (accessed on  January 2023).

[16] Newswire Cision (2016), Loblaw to invest $1.3 billion, create approximately 20,000 jobs in 2016, https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/loblaw-to-invest-13-billion-create-approximately-20000-jobs-in-2016-575370521.html (accessed on  January 2023).

[24] O*NET (2016), Education and Training Career Cluster, https://www.onetonline.org/find/career?c=5&g=Go (accessed on  March 2023).

[35] OECD (2023), Part-time employment rate (indicator), https://doi.org/10.1787/f2ad596c-en (accessed on  July 2023).

[1] OECD (2022), OECD Employment Outlook 2022: Building Back More Inclusive Labour Markets, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/1bb305a6-en.

[23] OECD (2021), OECD Skills Outlook 2021: Learning for Life, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/0ae365b4-en.

[15] OECD (2021), The Updated OECD Youth Action Plan - Building Blocks for Future Action, OECD, https://www.oecd.org/employment/youth/The-Updated-OECD-Youth-Action-Plan.pdf.

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[7] Scheer, A. et al. (2022), “Whose jobs face transition risk in Alberta? Understanding sectoral employment precarity in an oil-rich Canadian province”, Climate Policy, Vol. 22/8, pp. 1016-1032, https://doi.org/10.1080/14693062.2022.2086843.

[3] Statistics Canada (2022), Focus on Geography Series, 2021 Census of Population, https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2021/as-sa/fogs-spg/Page.cfm?Lang=E&Dguid=2021A000248&topic=11.

[4] Statistics Canada (2022), Table: 14-10-0023-01 (formerly CANSIM 282-0008), https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1410002301 (accessed on  November 2022).

[2] Statistics Canada (2022), Table: 14-10-0027-01 (formerly CANSIM 282-0012), https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1410002701 (accessed on  November 2022).

[8] Statistics Canada (2022), Table: 14-10-0287-01 (formerly CANSIM 282-0087), https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1410028701 (accessed on  November 2022).

[5] Statistics Canada (2021), Portrait of Youth in Canada: Data Report. Chapter 2: Youth employment in Canada, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/42-28-0001/2021001/article/00002-eng.htm.

[20] Statistics Canada (2021), Table 37-10-0023-01 Number of apprenticeship program registrations, inactive, https://doi.org/10.25318/3710002301-eng (accessed on  January 2023).

[33] Statistics Canada (2020), Classification of job permanence, https://www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb/p3VD.pl?Function=getVD&TVD=127441&CVD=127442&CLV=0&MLV=2&D=1 (accessed on  January 2023).

[32] U.S. Energy Information Administration (2023), Crude Oil Dollars per Barrel - Spot prices annual, https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/PET_PRI_SPT_S1_A.htm (accessed on  January 2023).

[25] University of Alberta (2023), Alberta Engineering Co-op Program, https://www.ualberta.ca/engineering/co-op/our-program/index.html (accessed on  March 2023).


← 1. This chapter refers to youth or young people as the population aged 15 to 24 years.

← 2. For more detail on youth unemployment by industry, see Statistics Canada (2022[4]).

← 3. For a discussion about strengths and limitations of online job postings data see Chapter 1.

← 4. It is worth noticing that are some jobs that include one of these words but are not seeking to hire young professionals. This is mainly the case for jobs in the education sector including the word “Student” but looking for more experienced profiles, such as “Student Counsellor” or “Student Co-ordinator”. For that reason, the classification rule do not include OJPs with titles including the words “Advisor”, “Counsellor”, “Co-ordinator”, “Officer” or “Administrator”.

← 5. A caveat on this criterion is that nearly 60% of the data for Alberta about the maximum experience required is missing.

← 6. The WTI reference price fell from USD 105.79 per barrel (/b) in June 2014 to a minimum price of USD 30.32 /b in February 2016. After that, it started a positive trend that extended until September 2018 when it reached USD 70.75 /b (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2023[32]).

← 7. It is worth noticing that approximately 65% of the YAPs in Alberta do not include information on qualifications and degrees.

← 8. More stable positions are expected to last as long as possible, so they do not have a pre-defined termination date. Temporary positions have a pre-determined termination (projects or fixed-term contracts) (Statistics Canada, 2020[33]).

← 9. Part-time positions are those job that requires employees to work less than 30 hours per week (OECD, 2023[35]).

← 10. The impact of digitalisation on Alberta’s labour market has been explored in Chapter 4.

← 11. Lifelong learning starts in childhood and youth, continuing throughout adulthood and old age. It encompasses formal learning in settings such as schools and training centres, informal and non-formal learning derived from colleagues and workplace trainers, and unintentional learning stemming from spontaneous social interactions(OECD, 2021[23]).

← 12. Due to data scarcity at the 8th-digit level of occupation classification of YAPs in Alberta, this section uses the career area level to aggregate youth-accessible postings.

← 13. As explained in Chapter 1, service regions is a term used by Alberta Advanced Education, which refers to regions that have one or more post-secondary institutions.

← 14. These findings are in line with the descriptions available in the occupation explorer of the “Career, learning and employment information service for Albertans (ALIS)”. For example, a retail salesperson is expected to “hav[e] clear rules and organised methods for their work” (ALIS Alberta, 2023[34]), which is associated with organisational skills; while other sales representatives need communication, presentation and problem-solving skills.

← 15. The most similar occupation to management analysts that also shows a high demand for youth-accessible positions is software developer / engineer, whose demand growth is expected to be around 2.2% per year. Human resources specialists and researchers also show positive growth prospects for the next years.

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