As the economy lurches, Generation Y tries to launch careers

When Noah Schwartz began the second year of his MBA in September, he expected job prospects would be plentiful when he graduates next April, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 28. But that was before the omnipresent "crisis" – you know, the international economic meltdown that causes Schwartz’s professors to talk recession, worried baby boomers to discuss layoffs and retirement, and their children to rethink plans as they come of age in an era of economic uncertainty.

Schwartz, 26, says he’s now more realistic about the chance of landing his dream job.  "I’m going to have to be a lot less picky," he says. "As a new grad, I’m worried I won’t be able to get a good job right away. You’ll really have to be the cream of crop to even just get an interview, with the way the market is."  

Schwartz belongs to a generation of about 85 million tenacious, technologically savvy, multi-tasking North Americans born during a baby bulge in the 1980s. The generation is so young – its oldest members are not yet 30 – that they have yet to forge one name for themselves, referred to, interchangeably, as Generation Y, the Echo Boomers or the Millennium Generation. They make up about 17 per cent of the Canadian labour force, whereas baby boomers total about 40 per cent, according to a 2008 Randstad Canada report on the increasingly multi-generational workforce. 

For MBA student Schwartz, there is a potentially positive picture despite his job worries. He says, based on what they’ve learned at York’s Schulich School of Business, he and his fellow students believe there are opportunities now for meaningful change. "It’s an exciting time to be an upcoming graduate," Schwartz says. And he remains hopeful that he will eventually get the job of his dreams. "With the baby boomer generation being set to retire in the coming years, we are the next leaders."

A US-style collapse could cost Canadian taxpayers plenty

When the full extent of America’s housing crisis became apparent this past summer, Ottawa slammed the door on extreme mortgages, reported Maclean’s in its Dec. 8 issue. As of last month, mortgage amortizations were limited to 35 years, while buyers must now cough up a down payment of at least five per cent. The flip-flop, which the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said it supports, is aimed at preventing a real estate crisis here. But critics say the clampdown came too late. In October the average resale price of a home in Canada’s major markets fell 9.9 per cent to $281,133 from a year ago, the fifth straight month of falling prices. 

"Given the highly leveraged situation of many homeowners, it is quite clear to me that we are not immune to what has happened in the US," says Moshe Milevsky, a professor of finance at York University’s Schulich School of Business. He says a five to 10 per cent price decline over 12 to 24 months could wipe out the equity of hundreds of thousands of Canadians who rushed to buy homes in the last few years. "Bottom line is, there are many Canadians today who own homes they should have rented instead. I’m afraid CMHC was responding to politics as opposed to prudence when they loosened their standards a few years ago."  

Obama’s to-do list expanding rapidly

If US president-elect Barack Obama thought he could concentrate solely on economic woes during his transition period, the terrorist attacks in Mumbai blew up that notion, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 28.  

"This is a very unusual transition in terms of the speed of economic and now strategic matters moving along," said James Laxer, professor of political science in Atkinson’s School of Social Sciences at York. "And George Bush has been the lamest of lame ducks."  

Obama has said he wants an economic package on his desk Jan. 20 after his inauguration. Laxer, author of The Perils of Empire, suspects he’ll also now want a plan for dealing with Afghanistan in the context of relations with India and Pakistan. Obama must be careful not to get too far out front on this issue, said Laxer. "He can’t take leadership on it. He couldn’t sustain it over the next eight weeks."  

Demise of water flea signals looming ecological disaster

Water fleas are being called "the canary in the coal mine" of a potential ecological disaster, reported Canwest News Service in a story published Nov. 28 in major newspapers across Canada. (The Toronto Star published a similar story.) The tiny creatures once flourished in lakes across Eastern Canada and the Maritimes. Scientists say there is no longer enough calcium in many lakes for the fleas to form their protective shells. They warn that the impact of what they term "aquatic osteoporosis" goes far beyond the little crustaceans.  

Food webs in the lakes across much of eastern North America are at risk, a Canadian team reports in the journal Science. "The ecological impacts of environmental-calcium loss are likely to be both widespread and pronounced," say the scientists from Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, and Queen’s and York universities.  

The researchers say logging and acid rain appear to be largely responsible for depleting the calcium that is critical for shell- and bone-building. And they fear the "insidious" problem will worsen unless action is taken. The shell-building problems in the water fleas are not only reducing the number of Daphnia available for other creatures to eat, but could signal similar problems in crayfish, snails and mollusks that also need lots of calcium. The lakes affected tend to be small but are home to 3,000 to 4,000 different species, ranging from tiny algae to rainbow trout.  

"They’re little islands of life," says co-author Norman Yan, biology professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering. Ten to 20 of the minuscule fleas typically swim around in every cup of water from a healthy lake, says Yan. They gobble up algae like "living lawn mowers", and pass the energy up to the insects, crayfish and fish that swallow them.  

Former student fields calls seeking news from Mumbai

In the heart of Toronto’s Little India, a relieved Chandan Singh stayed glued to CNN, thankful his friends and family were safe, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 28, following terrorist attacks in Mumbai Wednesday. The 22-year-old former York University student had been sitting in his family’s sari shop in the Gerrard Street East and Coxwell Avenue area fielding calls from concerned friends when the e-mail from his friend came.  

“Hey Bro… Seems like the situation is deteriorating," read the message from Vishal Chugani, who was at a hotel in Mumbai. "Rumour has it two more major hotels were targeted. So everyone is taking precautions. But no worries. I’m good. Will keep you guys informed.” 

Chugani and his father, who had gone to visit family, had planned to stay at The Oberoi Hotel, but at the last minute, his father decided to stay somewhere else to be closer to family. "I was terrified for him when I thought he was staying there," said Singh. 

Saint John lawyer is recognized as a rising star

Two Saint John lawyers have been recognized as leading lawyers under 40 in Canada, reported the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal Nov. 28. Arthur Doyle (LLB ’95), a partner with Cox & Palmer, and Matthew Hayes, a partner with McInnes Cooper, were both named to Lexpert’s Rising Star list, which recognized 48 lawyers from across Canada at an industry awards dinner in Toronto this week. Lexpert runs its national Lexpert Magazine, which focuses on the business of law.  

A New Brunswick native, Doyle, 38, graduated from the University of New Brunswick and York’s Osgoode Hall Law School before launching his career, which took him to New York and Toronto before coming back home.  

On air

  • Nathaniel Barnes (BFA Spec. Hons. ’01) was to make his fourth appearance on “Jeopardy” Thursday. Barnes is a part-time bartender and a composer. Now the question is how much cash he’ll rack up on the game show, reported “CBC News At Six” in Windsor Nov. 27.