Canada is a rising force in business education and a healthy market for MBAs looking for jobs.
With application growth driven by overseas students who are attracted by Canada’s bright careers prospects and relaxed visa rules, it’s one of the most popular places for business students to study.
Here are six reasons you should consider a career in Canada.
1. Openness to international students
McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management has the most international MBA in Canada, at 83% international students
Canada has a reputation for being open and inclusive, welcoming to people from all walks of life.
At the Ivey Business School in Ontario, international student hiring rates align closely to those of domestic students. Some 90% of 2018 students overall received at least one job offer within six months of graduation.
Even without a job offer, overseas students are eligible for a three-year work permit on graduation from a two-year master’s degree, or a one-year permit if coming from a 12-month course—a more open policy than the USA’s H-1B scheme.
“International experience and background is actually an asset to the market,” explains Catherine Chandler-Critchlow, Ivey’s executive director of career management and corporate recruiting.
2. Big opportunities for small businesses
Did you know that 55% of SMEs in Canada have fewer than four employees, according to BDC?
The Canadian job market is similar to many other nations, with a strong services sector accounting for much of the employment—financial services, consulting, retail, and healthcare.
Financial services in particular continues to be a strong area of growth for Canada, accounting for 4.5% of employment in 2017 or 831,000 jobs. The sector has grown by 11.6% in the last 10 years.
One thing that distinguishes Canada from other job markets, however, is that small businesses play a big role in the economy.
According to BDC, 98.2% of all businesses in Canada have fewer than 100 employees. This means MBAs may be just as likely to work for an SME as a blue-chip business.
3. Strong support for startups
Smart thermostat producer Ecobee is one of Canada's best-funded startups of 2019, according to Disfold. Here, its CEO Stu Lombard is delivering a speech at a CleanTech event. (Source: Facebook)
Entrepreneurship is fuelling growth in the Canadian job market, says Karen Jackson-Cox, executive director of the Career Advancement Centre at Smith School of Business, Queen’s University.
Startups in Canada are supported by a mixture of government funding, tax incentives, special visas for technology startups, incubators, and accelerators, which is building a reputation for the region.
“Canada is considered the Silicon Valley of the north with booming cities and excellent universities,” Karen says.
4. Employers want to get to know you
A speed-mentoring event at York University's Schulich School of Business in Toronto. (Source: Facebook)
If MBAs aren’t inclined towards starting their own ventures, however, opportunities for more traditional employment are plentiful.
Although jobs are formally posted on websites, networking is often cited as the primary method of securing work, says Blessie Mathew, director of the career center at the Alberta School of Business.
“Networking is a critical skill to employ in a work search in Canada,” she says.
Educational background is not necessarily regarded as the top qualification for Canadian jobs, Blessie says—instead, employers tend to focus on what you can really do.
“Employers are looking for applicants who can demonstrate the skills required for the position, even if those skills were acquired in an unrelated job,” Blessie says. “Canadians value transferable skills.”
5. Diverse locations
As well as Toronto, Vancouver is also a great spot for MBAs to study.
Location is also an important factor in students’ job searches, and Canada offers a diverse array of options in this department. Each region has its own attractions.
“A student targeting oil and gas or mining would be looking primarily at jobs in the province of Alberta, Calgary in particular,” says Karen. “For financial services, the head offices of the banks are in Toronto.
“For the tech sector, Toronto and Vancouver are hotbeds.”
In fact, as home to 241,000 tech jobs, Toronto is the fourth largest tech hub in North America, and is the fastest-growing.
According to Karen, the low dollar and immigration policies have helped grow this sector by encouraging companies to locate here and have access to talent. Amazon, for example, has created 10,000 jobs overall in Canada and plans to add thousands more.
6. A popular site for consultants
KPMG offices in Kamloops, Canada.
Servicing this growing tech industry are consulting firms, which schools say are hiring MBAs in larger numbers.
Cori Foged, director of careers, coaching, and work-integrated learning at Alberta, says that with the plunge in the price of crude oil more students have migrated from oil and gas to consulting.
Consulting firms are keen to hire people with technology expertise to help companies such as banks pull off digital transformations, Karen explains—and they’re not the only companies that need help.
With an ageing population and drive for cutting costs, Canada’s healthcare industry is also expanding.
“Into 2020, consulting is expected to grow in the areas of pharma, biotech, healthcare and financial services,” Karen notes.
So, how can you improve your chances?
With all of the above in mind, competition in the job market in Canada is tough. The market is smaller than the US, after all—so what can overseas students do to improve their chances of securing employment?
Martina Valkovicova, director of the Career Center at UBC Sauder School of Business, says the first step is building relationships.
“Referrals to fill job positions are very strong in Canada and we strongly encourage informational interviews and coffee chats to get to know the market, major players and individual cultures of companies,” she says.
Martina also recommends gaining work experience in Canada before you apply, in order to show employers that you understand the local market.
Finally, she adds that students should focus on developing soft skills. “A lot of Canadian workplaces value collaboration, and great interpersonal skills will go a long way in the ensuring you and your employer’s success.”