UW rises in international employability rankings

Graphic by Heather Ecobichon

The COVID-19 pandemic may have brought the Canadian economy to a halt, but the working world has finally begun to recover. The newest set of University of Waterloo graduates will have a high chance of being employed, as UW has reached the 24th spot in the QS Graduate Employability Rankings for 2022. 786 institutions were included in the rankings this year, meaning that UW is in the top five per cent of all schools.

Ross Johnston, executive director of co-operative education at UW, spoke to Imprint about his plans to continue supporting students and identifying ways for the university to improve.

“We are really proud of this accomplishment and recognition. It demonstrates the success of our students and the value of the work we do here to prepare them for what comes next after university,” Johnston said. “While we can’t predict how the future of work will evolve, we want to support our students in making sense of an uncertain future.”

The QS rankings consist of several categories that evaluate an institution’s overall graduate employability. UW ranked 16th in the ‘partnerships with employers’ category, which measures the number of distinct employers who are actively present on a university’s campus. This high rating is likely a result of the co-op program, which invites over 7,000 companies to recruit from Waterloo each year. UW also had a noticeable jump in the ‘graduate employment rate’ category, rising from 94th in 2020 to 74th this year.

Despite the impressive results, there is always room for improvement. Recent graduates are doing well, but many first- and second-year students struggled to find co-op placements during the COVID-19 pandemic. Software and technology-focused programs were less affected because these jobs can easily be done remotely, but some other programs have had difficulty.

“We understand the pandemic has presented new, unique challenges to many of our students,” Johnston said. “We also know the workforce will continue to be volatile and unpredictable, and organizations need to explore innovative ways to adapt and be prepared for the future. We continue to focus job development efforts on programs that have below average employment rates to increase the number of relevant opportunities available for students.”

While co-op employment rates were noticeably lower during the pandemic, Johnston said the number of job postings has now increased to above pre-pandemic levels. 7.9 per cent more jobs were posted in fall 2021 compared to fall 2019, and the winter 2021 co-op term saw the highest-ever number of students employed.

As the co-op program continues to grow and more positions return to being in-person, Johnston said the university will make an effort to create new opportunities for students and acquire more funding to support international travel. Above all, Johnston said he hopes that co-op students and UW graduates will continue to perform well in the future.

“We want to provide students with more opportunities to reflect on the skills they are building through their academic studies. It’s our hope that an increased need for Canada’s skilled graduates can lead the way for economic growth – and that Waterloo graduates will be an integral part of that.”