Why 1983 was 'one of the worst years' for university students

It was a tough year to be a university graduate, or even to be a university student seeking some summer work.

Jobs were very hard to come by, leaving students with few options for employment

Few jobs for students in 1983

40 years ago
Duration 2:11
In March 1983, The National looks at the tough job market for university students and graduates.

Anything was better than nothing — if anything was actually available, job-wise.

Because as a cohort of young baby boomers reached the end of the university school year in 1983, there weren't a lot of jobs to be found.

"This is one of the worst years for graduating students to find work," The National's Knowlton Nash told viewers on March 2, 1983, telling them something the parents of those students probably already knew.

The only thing students could do was try to gain an edge by checking job postings at university placement centres and hope to spot something that was a good fit.

"Only a lucky few get to be interviewed," said reporter Sheldon Turcott, who interviewed students, a recruiter and a university official about the challenging job market that year.

'No one should have to just give you a job'

Electrical engineer Jeff Gibson was in his final year of studies when he spoke to The National in March of 1983. He was among those students fortunate enough to land a job interview at that time. (The National/CBC Archives)

Jeff Gibson, an electrical engineering student, was one of those soon-to-be graduates who managed to get himself in front of a potential employer. He seemed to understand how difficult it was to gain employment.

"No one should have to just give you a job," said Gibson. "You would have to go and earn it, I would think."

Cathy Fellicioni, a placement officer at the University of Toronto, said graduating students were going through a range of emotions when confronting the very tough job market.

"They're frustrated. Some are depressed, some are angry, some are adopting a wait-and-see attitude," she told The National.

'Worse than I've ever seen it'

Undergraduate student Susan Hess said she'd accept any employment she could find for the summer. (The National/CBC Archives)

Things were similarly tough for undergraduates who were seeking summer employment.

Susan Hess, an undergraduate architecture student, told The National she would take whatever job she could get.

"It's been terrible, it's been worse than I've ever seen it," Hess said.

Unfortunately, things weren't going to get any easier for Hess and other students in the months ahead. 

In September 1983, The National was again reporting on the plight of Canada's university students who were flocking to campus in record numbers that fall, in part because of the lack of economic opportunities for them.

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