The pandemic has created opportunity and uncertainty for new grads

Students need to be flexible and adaptable when starting a new career


For graduating culinary students at Algonquin College, the world’s their oyster (enjoyed with garlic and chili toppings, of course).

The worst of the pandemic may have led many workers to abandon the hotel, resort and restaurant industry but, since September, the college’s culinary management program has seen more job opportunities than ever.

“It’s unbelievable,” says Cory Haskins, academic chair of Algonquin’s culinary and pastry arts programs and former executive chef at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa and at the prestigious Rideau Club. “Things are looking very positive. This is the time to get into this industry again.”

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Many of the workers who left food services in 2020 or 2021 held jobs in the middle to senior ranks, Haskins notes, opening up opportunities for new grads.

“For new graduates of the culinary and hospitality programs, there are positions that they can rise up to over the next few years,” says Haskins.

But while the future is looking bright for future chefs, it’s still a time of uncertainty for many graduating students in need of advice when it comes to the job-searching process.

Hiring landscape changing

“They want to know who is hiring and for what roles and they’re looking for guidance and clarity because the hiring landscape is changing and evolving in real time,” says Kristina Johnston, manager of the Employment Support Centre at Algonquin College. 

Take a program like event management. Initially, it was hard for graduating students to find jobs because nobody was holding events during the worst of the pandemic. Over time, planners found new ways to bring people together using online event platforms. Graduates who were willing to be adaptable and able to learn on the job were suddenly in demand, says Johnston.

“Events now mean something different than they did before.”

Algonquin College offers a variety of work-integrated learning opportunities that allow students to experience the work environment in real time, whether it’s on-site, in a hybrid arrangement or done remotely, says Johnston.

As well, Algonquin College provides job preparation and career readiness support to both students and graduates. “These services have been adapted to take into account the realities of today’s recruitment and hiring landscape, which has changed,” says Johnston. “One example is that we’ve placed a focus on preparing students for virtual interviews and also networking online.

“We also actively look for ways to connect students with employers both inside and outside the classroom,” says Johnston of information sessions and recruitment events hosted using a variety of online platforms. 

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