The hectic scramble for the class of '59

ERIC HUTTON April 25 1959

The hectic scramble for the class of '59

ERIC HUTTON April 25 1959

The hectic scramble for the class of '59

Courted by hundreds of company recruiters right on the campus, wooed by 1,200 other firms through ads, letters and phone calls, the universities’ job-conscious senior students are the coveted

This year’s crop:


The four seniors at right—being inte viewed, and on the scene of the job they have chosen — are among fifteen thousand who are graduating from fifty two Canadian universities and college this year. Bachelors of arts, 5,659 strong make up the largest group; a dozen specialists in child study are the smallest The others are:
















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Il/arly this year three hundred representatives of more than a hundred Canadian employers and a few from the United States swarmed over the University of Toronto campus in the most concentrated talent hunt ever held in North America. Their quarry was the five hundred young men (plus a handful of women) who will graduate in engineering and science next month.

For three hectic days, from early morning to late afternoon, the final-year students deployed through five university buildings to appraise and be appraised in intensive half-hour interviews by as many as ten employers each. For these exploratory encounters with future bosses the traditionally casual engineers wore neckties, polished shoes and trousers that often matched coats—an innovation that caused one startled professor to peer at youths he had been lecturing all year and enquire: “Who are these people?”

The interviewing accommodation, though, was less formal. Space was at such a premium that executives whose natural habitat is a mahogany desk on a quarter acre of broadloom met job candidates in what one of them described as “broom closets and boiler rooms.”

The Atomic Energy Commission's recruiters shared space with Massey-Ferguson's team in the

winch-room atop an elevator shaft; Shell Oil’s scouts worked amid air-conditioning machinery in the basement of the mechanical building; the federal government’s Civil Service Commission sought future civil servants in an evacuated parcel room; Imperial Oil enlisted tomorrow's petroleum engineers among test tubes and retorts in a laboratory pungent from recent chemical experiments.

When the hubbub of three thousand interviews had subsided, when each company’s favored candidates had been re-interviewed and tested by an assortment of questionnaires, when job offers had been made and accepted or rejected, the university’s placement bureau could tot up this score: seven eighths of the graduating class had jobs even before they had diplomas, at an average salary of about four hundred dollars a month.

The fact that the rest will not graduate into waiting jobs does not mean they got no offers; rather, in most cases, the offers didn’t fill their peculiar requirements. And peculiar indeed are some of the requirements. One embryo engineer insists that his place of employment must not merely be in Toronto, but w'est of Yonge Street and north of Wilson Avenue. “I live in that area and 1 don’t intend to fight rush-hour traffic to

and from work every day,” he said blandly.

Another graduate turned down six good positions because none of them would take him where he could hunt elephants, a sport he has set his heart on. He’s now on the trail of a job with an English company that has branches in Africa.

Toronto’s three-day hiring jamboree, officially the Concentrated Engineering Recruitment Program—to students “the crash plan”—is only a rather spectacular offshoot of a new function that has mushroomed at all Canadian universities: bringing graduating classes and employers together with a minimum of chaos. Today employers—and that means not only commercial firms but the armed forces, crown companies and, largest recruiters of all, the civil service—are not content to wait lor graduates to show' up in search of jobs. Enlistment has become a senior occupation in many companies. It costs them up to twelve hundred dollars each in recruiters’ salaries and traveling expenses for every graduate hired. Trained teams of as many as six men beat the academic bushes of fifty-two universities and colleges from coast to coast. In addition to the engineer recruiters, more than a hundred and thirty other teams prospected university campuses last year. Another twelve continued on page 46

continued on page 46

The hectic scramble for the class of ’59

Continued from page 23

“There were rumors of lavish weekends in New York, where companies wooed their prospects”

hundred employers put in bids for graduates by letter, telephone and telegraph. Placement bureaus even get a small but steady call for graduates who normally go into practices of their own-doctors, dentists and lawyers. One elderly interior decorator requested “a nice interiordesign graduate who will work with me for a while and then inherit my business.”

In a few years placement bureaus of Canadian universities have expanded almost to the status of faculties. In fact, at the University of Ottawa, placement is an integral part of the faculty of social sciences.

Toronto's crash plan evolved in selfdefense. Two years ago, between October and May, five thousand job interviews were held on campus, most of them during class hours. Some companies bypassed the university’s placement service, set up interview rooms in downtown hotels and lured applicants by advertisements in the Varsity, the campus newspaper, and in Toronto dailies. There were rumors of choice prospects being taken on lavish weekend junkets to New York, where the company officials could woo the students in a congenial atmosphere.

Professors complained to Kenneth Bradford, placement director, that they were lecturing to classes of transients who kept slipping out and returning. One physics professor paused in the middle of a laboratory demonstration to denounce the comings and goings as a discourtesy to himself.

"Sir,” answered a student whose return from a job interview had been the immediate cause of the professor’s exasperation, “it’s a compliment to your course. In other classes we just take the afternoon off.”

Bradford made a calculation that appalled him and other university officials: in a few years the planned expansion of the university combined with increasing competition for graduates would add up to fifteen thousand interviews. Even at a minimum of half an hour each, this would mean seventy-five hundred hours

of education lost, or the equivalent of fifty students missing their whole final year of stucly.

Bradford polled some of his placement colleagues at big United States universities to find out how they were solving this knotty problem. The gist of their answers was, “We’re not — and we’re quietly going mad.” So Bradford, a lean ex-colonel of infinite calm and patience, set about devising the first production-line system for bringing together a graduating class and the employers who wanted to hire its members.

Each employer who planned to dip into the manpower pool registered with the university, supplied booklets, pamphlets and brochures to inform the students of company policies, plans and working conditions, and indicated what type of engineers and scientists they were seeking. Examples: Canadian Industries Ltd. wanted every branch of electrical and physical - science grads; Carnation Co. needed civil, mechanical, electrical and metallurgical engineers; Noranda Mines needed geologists plus mechanical, chemical, mining and metallurgical engineers; Procter and Gamble sought graduates of the University of Toronto's new engineering-business course, in addition to civil, mechanical, chemical and electrical engineers.

Some of the more enterprising employers took further steps to attract candidates. They bought advertisements in the campus newspaper urging the final-year engineering and science students to register for interviews with them. Appointment sheets were laid out on a long table in the mining building, and the students were turned loose on them. Bradford suggested that eight interviews per student might be a manageable schedule; some narrowed the choice of employers down to three or four, others registered for a dozen or more interviews.

For reasons predictable and unpredictable the students distributed their favors quite unevenly among the companies. A leading metal-processing company that closed down one of its plants and laid

off hundreds of employees two years ago was back in the market for engineers but attracted practically no candidates. On the other hand an oil company that needed no new men decided to go through the motions of recruiting in order to “keep the franchise open" for future years, found its interview schedule booked solid, and ended by hiring a couple of men.

But the principal reason why some companies-—among them multi-milliondollar corporations — failed to impress candidates was that their literature told

their story so poorly. Bradford, the placement director, reported:

“l ess than a third of the information supplied to us was of any value in describing the company and its opportunities to a student. The expensive books of fervent prose with which our graduates were plied appeared to be a test of the senior's verbal comprehension. They expected him to extract the kernel of information that was wrapped in the fleshy pap of executive egotism. When the placement department attempted to do the extraction, even the tiny kernel

was not to be found in many cases.”

Bradford and his helpers finally went to The Financial Post's files for factual information to enlighten students on the activities of companies that were unable to tell their own stories intelligibly. (At the University of Western Ontario seven out of ten students in the recruiting program found the companies’ literature poor, with the result that they had to “shop around" via a multitude of interviews to decide what employers offered the kind of jobs they wanted.)

One engineering graduate, recruited by

the glittering phrases of a company brochure, compiled a glossary of “executive vernacular” for the guidance of later graduates:

“Many opportunities” — We’re shortstaffed.

“Top-level position” — Title in lieu of raise.

“Responsible assignments” — Work.

“Job interest” — Good-looking secretary.

“Promotion from within” — The boss is loaded with relatives.

“Security” — You’ll be stuck in the same job fifty years.

“Stimulating contacts”—Office parties.

“Unique climate of teamwork”—We don’t speak to each other so we get along fine.

But in spite of some shortcomings the University of Toronto's three-day blitz salvaged so many hours of training for the engineers and saved the recruiters so much time and confusion that McGill University has adopted a similar program, and observers from many Canadian and United States universities have come to Toronto to study the plan in action.

The growing invasion of university campuses by employers — an indication of the extent of this is the fact that just ten years ago McGill was visited by thirty-nine employers, this year by one hundred and eighty — has two major causes.

The obvious one is that in an expanding economy industry and government need more men and women with specific professional training in the physical sciences, commerce, education, teaching, nursing, agriculture, forestry and especially in engineering. There just aren't enough of these to go around in the long run. even though the supply-anddemand situation fluctuates sharply from year to year.

Two years ago almost every graduating engineer had his choice of two or three jobs and some companies induced students to sign on by putting them on the payroll three or four months before they graduated. Last year’s engineers, graduating in mid-recession, found barely enough jobs to go around (ten percent of McGill’s engineers hadn't found engineering jobs two months after graduation).

This year the top half of the graduating classes again have their choice of jobs. The rest are pretty well assured of employment, although for some it will be on the employers’ terms. Next year's demand for engineers may be affected by what happens to the hundreds thrown out of work by the abandonment of the Avro Arrow jet fighter, which took place shortly after the majority of the 1959 crop of graduates had found jobs. Strangely enough, the starting salaries offered graduate engineers in the recession year 1958 were the highest on record. At McGill the average was $404 a month, up from the $391 of the “good” previous year. In fact, starting salaries for engineers have risen an average of twenty dollars a month every year since 1949, when $229 was the average.

But the need for specific professional skills is not the only factor in the present scramble for college graduates. Employers who as recently as two or three years ago never dreamed of hiring men and women with university degrees are now seeking them out.

An extreme example was the man who telephoned a request to the University of Toronto for four young women graduates—“not just in arts but honor arts.” Their job would be to sell hot dogs from a canteen boat anchored in Toronto

bay. He wanted waitresses who could write BA after their names because his customers were high - class people — yachtsmen and cabin-cruiser owners.

Less unlikely employers who have started hiring college graduates for jobs not usually regarded as requiring a degree include department stores like Eaton’s and Simpson's, chain stores like Zeller’s, and grocery supermarkets like Loblaw’s, Dominion and A & P: packing plants, labor unions, co-operatives and banks.

A few years ago a twenty-one-yearold gold medalist in the business course at the University of Western Ontario wanted to make a career of banking. He was turned down by the banks to which he applied for a job. The reason: he was “too old" to start in a bank. The bankers were not impressed by his gold medal. They were satisfied with their standard hiring practice: high - school graduates in their late teens, at starting salaries of $1,400 a year.

Today the banks are each hiring up to fifteen college graduates a year and paying them a minimum starting salary of $3,600 a year (the minimum for highschool grads has meanwhile risen to $1,900 a year). In the banks, the BAs start on the same footing (except for salary) as any other junior clerk, and their progress is based entirely on the ability they show. This presents a delicate problem in staff relations, however, since a university grad beginning in a branch bank as fifth assistant teller is probably making more money than half a dozen men senior to him.

“We approach this problem,” said the personnel director of one bank, “by suggesting that when we hire college graduates we are making up for the special training they have undertaken for our benefit at a cost of four years and five thousand dollars each. But we also make it clear that they have no special advantage because they’re college men; in other words, that while they’ve got the equipment to advance fast, whether they do so or not is up to the individual.

The fact that a college education takes four or more years out of a young man s life and costs him from five thousand dollars for a BA to ten thousand for an engineering or science degree is only part of the reason why college graduates are being hired at salaries at least fifty percent more than high-school graduates can expect. A more practical reason is the fact that some parts of the country are running short of top-grade highschool students who go to work instead of going on to university.

The personnel director of a meat-packing company with branches in most major Canadian cities said that he is hiring sixty college graduates this year because he simply has not been able to find

promising high-school graduates. "Educators tell us that not nearly enough highschool graduates are going on to college," he said. “That may be statistically true, but employers are beginning to find that the cream of the crop are already going to college aftd in 1959 it's hard to find future executives among the young men who are going to work after high school instead of continuing their education."

In the coming years employers arc going to have to seek an increasingly larger proportion of their staff in colleges. In Ontario, for example, the pro-

vincial government’s 1959 budget earmarks funds for four thousand university scholarships and bursaries, “to ensure,” in the words of provincial treasurer James Allan, “that no student who has the capacity will be deprived of the opportunity of attending university." Even without this stimulus, the University of Toronto was preparing for an increase in student population to 21,500 from the present 13.800.

Companies that make a long-range policy of hiring university graduates don't scramble for them even in years

when demand exceeds supply. Procter and Gamble, which started hiring university graduates for its business office as w'ell as engineers for its plant more than thirty years ago. hired fifty-eight college men for one of its divisions in the past four years. But in the process the company’s recruiters interviewed no fewer than 1,618 candidates, called back 551 of them for further testing, and made definite job offers to 108.

From time to time, a company—usually with a new and enterprising boss at the helm—decides to build up a back-

log of talent by hiring the entire graduating class in one of the sciences at a small university. The most recent example was a western chemical firm that hired all eightee i graduating chemical engineers from a prairie university.

But the “coup” backfired. There wasn’t enough work for eighteen new chemical engineers and half of them had to mark time around the plant. The management was quite content to keep the men on at good salaries until they were needed, but in a few months they became restless and began to drift away to other jobs.

Companies devise various means of interesting students in future employment a year or two before they graduate. Many give summer jobs to promising students to indoctrinate them into the working conditions they can expect. But no employer “jumps the gun" as effectively as the Canadian armed forces.

Under a new tri-services recruitment program directed by Brig. Robert Rothschild from Ottawa, high-school students are enlisted before they matriculate and, if they fill the services’ medical and scholastic requirements, are put through college with all expenses paid plus a living allowance and salary. At present there are 1,550 young men at Canadian universities and service colleges under the Regular Officers’ Training Plan, comprising 240 for the navy, 575 for the army and 735 for the RCAF.

There’s no way of knowing how many of these students would have been unable to attend college otherwise, because the ROTP isn’t concerned with the financial standing of its recruits. But certainly the plan makes it possible for candidates without funds to go to university. The ROTP pays for tuition, books and equipment, provides medical and dental care and a salary of $128 a month ($63 a month at a service college where room and board are provided).

On graduation the students become officers at a starting pay of $374, plus $125 a month flying pay for RCAF aircrew. ROTP students sign on for a three-year hitch.

Much has been said of the loss of Canadian university graduates to the United States, but Kenneth Bradford, placement director at the University of Toronto, and Rowan Coleman, his opposite number at McGill, maintain that estimates of the number of college men who cross the border (some as high as thirty percent) are greatly exaggerated and the loss is actually under five percent. In the first place, U. S. draft laws make men of the age group of most university graduates liable to compulsory service in the armed forces and Canadian graduates are reluctant to start their careers with a hitch in the U. S. Army.

Moreover, the experience of placement officers is that most graduates, particularly those in Ontario and Quebec where the big university population is centred, want jobs as close to home as possible.

“It actually amounts to a placement problem," says Laurent Isabelle, placement director at the University of Ottawa. "Westerners and Maritimers are willing to travel, but not graduates from central Canada. They demand jobs in their own home cities.”

One startling exception to that tendency, however, concerns the most sought-after of all jobs for university graduates — overseas service with the Department of External Affairs and the Department of Trade and Commerce. This year the federal Civil Service had fifty jobs open for foreign posting and received 442 applications from graduates. ★