Millennials are shaking up the conventional definitions of employment and the workplace, with many desiring to be their own boss and join forces with other like-minded individuals in shared workspaces.
While recent surveys indicate this trend is being seen globally, are local millennials following suit as well?
Scott McCammon thinks so. As a former top executive at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and current head of the Milton Chamber, McCammon has noticed the younger segment of the workforce gravitating toward entrepreneurial opportunities.
And with technology putting everything a businessperson would need literally at their fingertips, starting their own business is easier than ever, said McCammon.
“Millennials I think, to a great extent, want to set their own destiny,” he said. “More millennials have created their own jobs because with the knowledge-based economy and technology, it’s a lot easier for people to start their own business.”
He added, “There’s also been an evolution over the past five to eight years of shared working spaces, like the Milton Education Village Innovation Centre, so that they don’t have to work in isolation.”
At Halton Region, staff reports seeing a similar desire among youth to be self-employed and carve their own way into the work world.
“Absolutely, they want to be their own boss,” said Halton Manager of Employment Services Susan Lazzer. “They know what they want and they tend to not want to settle for anything less.”
The Region’s Summer Company program helps some of these millennials take their ideas and get them off the ground. The initiative helps enterprising students between the ages of 15 and 29 start and run their own summer business.
Interest in the program is on the rise, with the number of inquiries it receives going from 80 in 2014 to 120 last year.
Halton Director of Economic Development John Davidson said he thinks some millennials are concluding that they don’t want to break into an organization and work there for 30 years.
“Being their own boss does seem attractive to a lot of millennials,” he said.
But what are those youth who aren’t pursuing self-employment doing?
According to the most recent statistics available from the 2011 census (2016 census details will be released later this year), a large number of Halton millennials born between 1981 and 1996 find themselves working in sales and service occupations — 42 per cent, to be exact, compared to 39 per cent across the province. Davidson said these positions tend to be part-time.
Next in line are business, finance and administration jobs, which sat at 14 per cent for millennials in Halton and Ontario, followed by education, law and social, community and government service positions at 10 per cent locally and provincially.
A look at the most recent statistics also shows that millennials are the generation with the highest unemployment rate. In Halton, that number sat at 14.6 per cent during the last census, compared to 4.1 per cent for Generation X and 4.2 per cent for baby boomers.
“Generally, it has remained difficult for millennials in the market and young people in the market,” said Davidson, suggesting this points toward larger structural issues in the economy.
Some of those millennials who need help getting into the workforce turn to Employment Halton for assistance in finding a job.
Its Youth Job Connection (YJC) program, funded by the Province, is geared to youth aged 15 to 29 who are facing multiple barriers to employment, such as a lack of work experience, lower level of education, foreign training or disabilities.
The YJC provides participants with about 60 hours of paid training to prepare them for the workforce and job placements, among other things.
Lazzer reported that the trend for millennials to work in the sales and service industry is also seen in the YJC, with 28 per cent of participants finding employment in this field.
While general labour and skilled trades are next on the list at 20 per cent, Lazzer said, “What we’re hearing from millennials is this doesn’t tend to be where they want to be.”
“We find a lot of youth, even once we place them in a position, that’s not a position for life,” she said. “They’ll get the experience and what they need out of it, then return to us to build on that employment and seek employment elsewhere.”
Lazzer said there’s high interest among millennials to work in the IT sector. Employment Halton also does many placements in the financial sectors and social/human services.
Among the millennial generation, Lazzer said she and her staff see certain expectations of jobs and wages that aren’t necessarily detected in other age groups.
“They want jobs they can grow in to,” she said. “They don’t think, well I’ll just take this job for now. They need to see career progression.”
McCammon said that businesses generally desire to recruit millennials.
“But I think there’s been a lot of unfair, negative connotation put on millennials in terms of their work ethic. In my experience, it’s completely untrue,” he said. “I find every generation has a different style of working, but that doesn’t make it bad. The bottom line for most companies is they want to attract the best talent, regardless of age, and frankly there’s a lot of great talent within the millennial community.”