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A degree no longer guarantees a job, it’s time for universities to tell us why

By: Ardena Bašić, Contributor

A higher education is often touted as a means to working in higher-paying, more revered professions. However, students often end up in positions they neither expected nor desired after graduation. In fact, Forbes reports that individuals holding a bachelor's degree experience higher unemployment and underemployment rates. Specifically, a report from the New York Federal Reserve revealed that 33.8% of college graduates are underemployed, which means they are working jobs that do not even require a degree. 

The COVID-19 crisis has not helped this issue, with Canada still steadily trying to regain the hundreds of thousands of jobs the pandemic eliminated from the country. Despite pouring thousands of dollars into their education, students are struggling to find reasonable work that connects to their degrees.

The solution to this issue is for universities to be more honest about what careers their programs can lead to, with an emphasis on professions that can be obtained without extra training or a graduate education. This will allow students to make a more informed decision on their post-secondary education and balance their expectations. 

After graduation, it seems logical that one with a science-based degree would search for jobs in research or healthcare. Moreover, someone with a business degree might look for jobs in a field within the world of business. However, depending on the degree and the courses contained, some programs may not lead to jobs that seem to be common sense. 

One reason this might be is that some programs focus on classroom learning, as opposed to exponential learning, like co-op. The lack of experience that comes with classroom-based programs has been shown to deter employers from hiring graduates from such programs.  

The lack of experience that comes with classroom-based programs has been shown to deter employers from hiring graduates from such programs. 

Other factors concern the idea of "prestige" that is associated with some programs or universities and a lack of networking skills integrated into programs. The former has even been formally studied, with results showing that students graduating from more reputable universities are 40% more likely to receive a positive response from employers. Any of these reasons could be justifiable for companies looking to hire. Thus, schools need to be honest about where they stand so students know what to expect when job-searching post-graduation. 

Yet, the key to this transparency needs to be carefully articulated and prepared. Schools cannot simply state that an education in political science can lead to jobs in public service and likewise. Rather, they need to do empirical studies on alumni and graduates to be certain of the information they are conveying. Students will likely find information about the careers that alumni have followed to be more trustworthy than if they are to simply try and connect similar themes between programs and careers. Schools should begin conducting this type of research and perhaps even include alumni interviews or mentorships for students, both programs that will also be helpful in building a student’s resume. 

Overall, choosing the right university and program is a pivotal step in beginning any career. Students should have all the information they could possibly need to make the right decision, including the profession they might consider in the future. Universities need to take steps now to ensure that students’ potential futures are transparent and accessible.

Photo by Kyle West

Statistics Canada data suggests that persons with disabilities, Indigenous and racialized identities are vastly underrepresented in workforces in Canada. To help marginalized students and alumni seek employment, the Student Success Centre launched the Career Access Program for Students, a suite of services offered in collaboration with the Student Accessibility Centre and Maccess.

CAPS focuses on skill building and career development through career advising, strategic goal setting and personal branding. Students also work on creating an employment action plan that is customized to meet their needs.

The program is for students and alumni that identify as persons with disabilities, First Nations, Metis and Inuit persons, members of racialized communities, First Generation students and LGBTQA2S+ students.  

Students and alumni can book one-on-one appointments through OSCARPlus, participate through events, or utilize online resources to learn about financial accommodations for students with disabilities, wellness support services, a transit accessibility initiative and campaigns to promote diverse practices.

The SSC also introduced a new position.

Katherine Hesson-Bolton started her position as the diversity employment coordinator in July 2018.

Her initial goals were finding her way around campus alongside first-year students, reading reports, developing a network with faculties, students, campus services and partners and identifying service gaps and needs.

Hesson-Bolton’s role places her in a unique position as a connecting link between McMaster and the greater community.

She regularly meets with employers in hopes of coming away with jobs and opportunities for students while also having conversations around diversity hiring and removing barriers.

She then is able to provide employers with on-campus and external resources, such as ones coming from Pride at Work Canada, to help them address diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

“It’s really about having a conversation with the employer to hear what their needs are, what McMaster students’ needs are, and then finding that fit… So it’s really about relationship building on both sides,” said Hesson-Bolton.

“It also comes back to reaching back to those campus partners, whether it’s student accessibility services or Indigenous services,” said Hesson-Bolton. “I also work a lot with and involve students on campus because it’s really important to get students’ perspective and their feedback.”

Hesson-Bolton also strategizes with employees on branding. Some employers have identified that they want to focus on inclusion, but do not know how to identify and address the needs of new employees.

“You may have employers who will want to hire students with disabilities. And the question back is ‘have you thought about how your workplace is set up? What are your policies, procedures, your staff education, so that the new employee feels included?’,” said Hesson-Bolton.

Hesson-Bolton starts the conversation by discussing meeting the needs of new hires, whether that be identifying the accommodations that would allow persons with disabilities to work, establishing prayer spaces or recognizing that always having social events in establishments that serve alcohol may exclude some individuals.

Hesson-Bolton also has important conversations with students and alumni around disclosure in the workplace and accommodation plans.

She also provides a space for students to talk about their frustrations, experiences with discrimination, while also connecting them to mentors and peers with similar lived experience.  

There is a strong need for university services to support students entering the workforce and address the barriers to diversity and inclusion. The CAPS program and the role of the diversity employment coordinator are just getting started.


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Header photo by Kyle West, Article photos C/O Shanice Regis

By: Drew Simpson

On Feb. 26, the Green is not White environmental racism workshop took place at the Hamilton Public Library’s Wentworth room. The free, open-to all workshop, garnered intrigue from attendees interested in learning about environmental racism.

Presenters sat on a raised platform and the room was filled with chart easel pads, activist posters and resources. The Green is Not White workshop, which is organized by Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces in partnership with the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Environment Hamilton and the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion started its seven-hour agenda with a land acknowledgement, icebreakers and then laid down foundational knowledge.  

Environmental racism is originally defined by Prof. Benjamin Chavis as the racial discrimination and unequal enforcement of environmental policies. The types of environmental racism have expanded since this 1987 definition and currently encompass air pollution, clean water, climate migration, extreme weather, food production, gentrification and toxins in the community and workplace.

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The crust of the issue is that ethnic minorities are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards. Black and Indigenous populations are most affected by environmental racism, yet this makes it no less of a collective issue. Local case studies were highlighted to drive this message close to home.

For example, most of Hamilton’s waste facilities are clustered just north of and within residential areas. This includes a proposed electronic waste processing facility, which can cause lead and mercury exposure, and an existing chemical wastes facility that is known for chemical explosions causing evacuations and serious injury. Loads of biosolids have been trucked through neighbourhoods posing disease risks from pathogens, concerns of terrible odours and ammonia use for steam filtering.

Studies show that Hamilton neighbourhoods with single-parent families and low education are the most exposed to air pollution. Since these neighbourhoods have fewer resources and are systematically marginalized, they are targeted by acts of environmental racism. The hashtag #EnvRacismCBTUACW continually discusses case studies across Canada.

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Along with the extensive examples of Canadians and Hamiltonians living in dire conditions due to environmental racism, as well as the government’s oversight of this issue, various Hamilton organizations have taken it upon themselves to drive change.

This workshop was the third part of a four-phase action research initiative on environmental racism by ACW, which develops tools to better the environmental conditions of jobs and the workplace and CBTU, a coalition that breaks the silence on African-Canadians’ labour issues. While this third stage involves community engagement, the fourth and final stage involves a joint report and video that will be housed on both the ACW and CBTU websites.

The slogan “Green is Not White” highlights that green jobs and environmentally safe conditions should not be reserved for white people. People of colour are most likely to work and live in dire conditions, and therefore deserve economic justice and access to clean water and land.


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Photo by Kyle West

By: Tanvi Pathak

In March, McMaster Students Union is slated to release its second annual municipal budget submission to Hamilton city council.

According to Shemar Hackett, the MSU associate vice president (Municipal Affairs), the budget submission will prioritize transit, student housing, student employment, bylaws and enforcement and lighting.

After consulting students and reviewing data from The Your City survey, the MSU decided these key areas were ones that stood out as issues that needed immediate attention.

The committee’s decision to focus on these areas is also linked to the rising demand for off-campus housing.

According to Andrew Parashis, a property manager at Spotted Properties, the largest property management in the McMaster community, demand for student housing has soared in recent years.

Parashis notes that with the increase of local and international students attending McMaster, the waiting list for students seeking accommodations through Spotted Properties has tripled in the last year alone.

The municipal budget submission will also focus on accessible employment opportunities.

The union’s education department and municipal affairs committee’s recommendations aim to offer proactive solutions for each issue and improve Hamilton’s attractiveness to students and recent McMaster grads.

One of the committee’s recommendations is for the city of Hamilton to implement a lighting audit across Ward 1.

Hackett emphasized that there are neighborhoods off-campus substantially lacking in visibility. As a result, many students do not feel comfortable walking home late at night after classes.

A lighting audit would reduce these issues in these neighborhoods and identify priority locations for new street lights.

The committee reached out to the Ward 1 councilor Maureen Wilson, who was receptive to the committee’s recommendation and is confident that the proposal will be valuable to McMaster and Ward 1.

Another recommendation calls for city council to move forward with the landlord licensing project discussed in December.

Hackett and Stephanie Bertolo, MSU vice president (Education), articulated their stance on landlord licensing to Ward 8 city councilor Terry Whitehead, who sits on the Rental Housing sub-committee.

Since then, the motion to implement a pilot project was brought to council and endorsed by many councilors.

Prior to the development of the budget submission, the committee consulted city officials.

The committee plans to continue to meet with the city staff and councillors to push for their recommendations and make them a priority for the council.

Thus far, they have met with Terry Cooke, CEO of the Hamilton Community Foundation, to discuss student engagement and retention and the ways in which organizations can support one another in the future.

The municipal affairs committee has also been successful in implementing its Landlord Rating system, a platform developed by the MSU education department.

The landlord licensing project, which the committee has also been lobbying for, got the Hamilton city council rental housing sub committee’s stamp of approval and will be put forth into discussion during the next city council meeting.

“The council has been extremely receptive to all our points about the agreements we put forth,” said Hackett, adding that the MSU budget submission has proven to be a valuable resource for lobbying municipal stakeholders.

Over the next few weeks, the municipal affairs committee will meet with city councilors and community stakeholders to advocate for their budget submission proposals.


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By: Tanya Kett and Elizabeth DiEmanuele

With over 115 employers, Fall Career Fair is one of the largest recruitment events at McMaster. For many students, it’s an opportunity to connect with employers and diverse opportunities.

Fall Career Fair has also become a debated topic among some of our students. At the Student Success Centre, we’re familiar with why students decide not to attend.

We would like to debunk some of these reasons. Here’s why students should consider attending this year.



This is the Career Fair Catch-22: every year, there are students who say they cannot find organizations hiring for their program, and every year, employers notice their absence. This is especially common among students who do not have co-op built into their program.

Consider an organization beyond their name and industry. Larger organizations have many opportunities. Research the organizations in advance so that when you attend, you can ask about opportunities related to your interests. Even if they are not recruiting at the Fall Career Fair, there may be opportunities in the future.  



We completely understand that this prevents some students from attending, which is why we have introduced Career Fair Access Hour. This is a unique opportunity for students to have more one-on-one time with employers who have strong diversity hiring programs within their organizations and who have chosen to develop those deeper connections. The Access Hour can also ease some of the discomfort of wading through crowds of people. For more information, email [email protected]



While this may be true, employers want you to attend so they can get a sense of who you are as a person. If you make a strong impression, employers will remember when they go through online applications. Sure, they may tell you to apply online, but that personal connection makes a big difference when they select candidates for an interview.



But you will be someday, right? Use Fall Career Fair to make connections. Do some research, talk to people, and learn about future career paths. The earlier you start making connections, the more you will build along the way. Plus, it is much easier to do this work when there is less pressure to find a job.

If you are still in doubt, consider stopping by for even a few minutes to get the feel for these types of events. Fall Career Fair is a great way to build your confidence because these are employers interested in McMaster students. The Fair could lead to your next opportunity.

Fall Career Fair is on Thursday, September 20, 2018. Learn more:

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On Nov. 1, 11 part-time manager positions were posted on the McMaster Students Union employment page and will be up for two weeks until Nov. 15. Most of the jobs are usually put up later in the year, which calls into question whether the hiring board has considered the challenges this date change creates.

For those unfamiliar, a PTM is the coordinator or director of one of the 35 MSU services offered. Always a full-time student, a PTM is in charge of running the service and sets the tone for said service for the year.

The majority of the jobs put up earlier this month usually aren’t up this early in the year. Typically, PTM positions such as Queer Students Community Centre, the Student Health Education Centre and Diversity Services are hired early second semester.

It may seem like a minor shift to change to move up the hiring of these PTMs, but moving these particular jobs to Nov. with little promotion drastically hinders students’ ability to apply.

I’ve applied to work for a few services before, and the hiring process isn’t easy. Writing the cover letter that each job asks for is stressful and if you move on to the next hiring stage, you’re likely going to have to complete an assignment in addition to the interview.

While difficult, the hiring process usually lands during a relatively calm time for students. But no matter what faculty you’re in, Nov. is probably the busiest month of the semester. Hiring during Jan. has worked well for students as it ensured they had ample time to work on their applications.

That is, of course, if students are even aware these jobs are available. The MSU news page only promoted the job openings on Nov. 6 even though the positions had already been up for five days.

The MSU used their typical methods for promoting positions, but considering that the majority of the posts were delayed and that students were not expecting this sudden change in the first place, I’m wary that the typical efforts will be as effective.

Considering that most services have yet to hold their major events meant to promote their services, it’s unlikely that qualified students are aware that these jobs are available unless they personally know the current PTMs or coincidentally saw the recent social posts.

All of these factors will limit the number of applicants for each role, which is troubling considering how important services such as the QSCC, SHEC and Diversity Services are. The PTM will set the tone for what the services will do next year and without making the jobs accessible to all possible applicants, the MSU is limiting each of these services’ potential.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with moving up the hiring date for some positions and I’m sure the higher-ups have their reasons. But without accounting for the student schedule and sufficient promotion, I’m concerned of how fair and efficient this round of hiring will be. With that said, I do wish all applicants good luck and hope that this editorial motivates those who weren’t aware of these jobs to apply.

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The Canadian Union of Public Employees 3906, the union representing McMaster employees, will hold a strike vote from Oct. 24 to Oct. 26 for all unit two workers, which is comprised of sessional faculty.

A strike vote does not guarantee a strike, but gives the union the blessing to potentially call a strike at later time.

Sessional faculty have had discussions with administration since July. They are mainly concerned with improving job security for sessional faculty.

For more information, visit the CUPE 3906 website.

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By: William Alexander

On Sept. 22nd, over 114 employers gathered in the David Braley Athletic Center for McMaster’s Career Fair, an annual event that aims to bridge the gap between students and the workforce. The Student Success Center also provided several free services, including a professional LinkedIn photo shoot, a career advising booth, and a resumé critiquing service.

Finding a job can be a daunting task, especially when a university degree can only get you so far. The Career Fair provides a sense of what employers are out there in the Hamilton community, what they are like, and who they are looking for. It’s also a good way for students who have never been employed to start developing connections and references.

“A degree is very important, but experiences and skills are just as important. It’s also an opportunity for you to see if you fit with that organization's culture,” said Gisela Oliveira, manager of Career and Employment at the Student Success Center, and the organizer of the fair.

She explained that some employers present had hired hundreds of McMaster alumni in the time that they had been recruiting at the fair and through job offers posted on OscarPlus.

Employers from all fields attended the Career Fair, from startup companies founded by McMaster graduates to the City of Hamilton. Between them, they offered positions to students from all faculties and programs.

Shawn Ilse, CEO and co-founder of Flyte Studios, had a booth at the fair. He came looking for students with experience in HTML5 to help program games for an educational gaming platform that his company built.

“They don’t need to be able to know everything, we can help them, you know, learn those extra things that they need to know,” said Ilse.

If you missed the career fair and are interested in entrepreneurship, Ilse advised to visit McMaster’s startup incubator, The Forge and Innovation Factory in Hamilton, which both strive to help new businesses by providing training and resources.

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I’m reaching the end of my degree. This will be the last semester of my undergraduate, and the first question that everyone but my cat wants the answer to is “where are you working after you graduate?” So on the cusp of graduation I have one honest recommendation for anyone looking for work: stop listening to almost everything people tell you about your future.

I fully recognize the irony in writing an article advising you to stop listening to advice, so instead let me tell you that all advice is not created equal. You need to be wary of who is giving you guidance and how applicable it really is. Traditional places we might look for help — friends, families, teachers — might not be as helpful as you’d hoped. Anyone who hasn’t had to job search in the last ten years is likely unable to tell you how to overcome our chronic job shortage. There is a reason why our parents’ generation often advised us to get an undergraduate degree and find a steady job with benefits and a retirement package. In their time it was not uncommon to secure a career in one industry, often with a single employer. Instead, our generation will be faced with multiple careers and more jobs than we can count, shaped by an ever-changing marketplace.

So if we can’t take advice from past generations, where can we turn? Googling “career tips” returns a huge number of results, but you should also be wary of taking advice from articles online. While tips on how to write a professional email or acquiring a business casual wardrobe may be helpful, don’t mistake that advice for anything that will help you stand out in a crowd — and there will be a crowd, because for every job that is publicly posted there are going to be a flock of applicants. Be wary of advice that is available to everyone, because at best it will help you conform in the market, and at worst make you forgettable.

Another thing to be critical of are buzzwords. I am firmly convinced that anyone who tells you to develop a “personal brand” doesn’t fully know what that means either. Take phrases like “personal elevator pitch”, “networking” and “rapid skill acquisition” with a grain of salt. If you can’t understand advice because it is wrapped in ambiguous or esoteric language, it is probably not going to be very useful to you anyway.

Be especially suspicious of advice that doesn’t take privilege and oppression into account. As study after study confirms what we already knew — that women and people of color are considered to be less qualified and are less likely to be hired — telling someone to “follow their dreams” ignores the fact that pursuing a career in your desired field is much easier for some than others. The best thing you can do instead is seek out advice tailored to your situation. If you can, look for someone you admire in your field with similar life experiences and reach out to them for guidance. You would be surprised how willing people are to mentor the enthusiastic and give you advice you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere. If there is no one like you in your chosen field, just be prepared for a potentially longer and more arduous job search.

Be wary of advice that is available to everyone, because at best it will help you conform in the market, and at worst make you forgettable.

So after telling you what advice not to follow, let me give you the advice that has worked best for me: focus on yourself. Often times finding a job is an exercise in ego; we are constantly trying to prove to potential employers that we are worth their time and money. You need to see the value in your own work, otherwise how will anyone else see it too? Not everything you do will be groundbreaking, but take the time to appreciate your own improvement, and strive to get better at what you want to do. As best as you can, demand fair pay for your work, and don’t compare yourself to your friends or coworkers because it isn’t going to be helpful. Don’t let other people dictate what your career is going to look like, because at the end of the day you are the one accountable for your work.

Photo Credit: Corbis Images

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