My first trip to Corner Brook was with my father in 1973 and I was very impressed. Since then I have been coming here several times a year, discovering a new facet of this wonderful region with each successive trip.
But this visit is a very special one because, for the first time, I am here with my family. Based on my own experience, I have the feeling that my wife and children will take a liking to the natural beauty of your province and to the people of Newfoundland.
We are delighted to be here and I would like to thank the Senate of the university for this honorary doctor of laws degree. My family and I are proud and delighted by this recognition.
The honor conferred upon me today reflects favorably on the Kruger organization. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the dedication of the management and employees of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper. Under their leadership, the mill continues to play an important role in the economy of western Newfoundland. I'm very pleased today for the families associated with the mill whose sons and daughters are part of this graduating class.
I would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge the influence of my late father who has inspired me throughout my life. My father believed that the Corner Brook mill had a future as part of the Kruger organization. As his successor in the family business, my biggest transaction was the acquisition of the mill from Bowater. Corner Brook will therefore always hold a special place in my heart.
In addressing you today, it is not my intention to speak about Joseph Kruger or about the Kruger organization. The larger purpose of this ceremony is to honor the graduating students.
This convocation is a celebration of their achievement. It is also an occasion to acknowledge family and friends who have provided support and to celebrate together the sense of pride and accomplishment felt by everyone in times such as these.
Today is a joyous occasion. For the graduates, it marks a milestone on the road of life. In many cases, it is a milestone that their parents did not have the opportunity to reach.
Today is also a crossroads. From here, there are many paths leading in different directions. There are decisions to be made. Jobs to find. Careers to build. More milestones on the road of life.
In preparing my notes, I asked myself what Joseph Kruger, a businessman, could offer the graduates at this point in their lives. What could I say that would be of interest and perhaps of some value to them?
So I asked Doug Kendrick, the general manager of the mill, what he thought the graduates wanted to hear. His reply was swift: "They want to know how to get a job. They want a message of hope."
Well, there is hope. There are jobs. There is a future for young people today despite the changing economy, deficits and cutbacks.
The difference between today and 10 to 15 years ago is that you can no longer sit back and wait for something to come along. Nobody is going to offer you a job.
The job market today is a reflection of the global economy. It is highly competitive. There is more supply than demand. Only the most efficient and innovative companies and countries are successful.
What do companies that compete in such an environment look for when they hire? They want specific skills. They want experience. They want people with good communication and interpersonal skills. They need employees who can be productive and efficient when working on their own and as part of a team. They require people who can deal with customers. People who can write reports. In other words, they are very demanding.
It is likely that none of today's graduates can meet all of these criteria. For example, many have neither specific skills nor experience. This is not a criticism of their education or of this institution. The brutal reality of the current job market is that employers can only afford resources that will make a full contribution the day they come on the payroll.
Finding a job in such an environment requires a lot of energy and ingenuity. Begin by setting your goals. Aim high. Dream. Your achievement today gives you the right to reach for the sky.
Then you have to accept the fact that it may take some time to reach your objectives. Today's circumstances definitely require a longer-term view. For most of you, it means lowering your expectations for the short term.
For some, this process will lead back to school for more study and more qualifications. For those who decide to enter the job market, the hard work is just beginning.
Your challenge is to find someone who will give you a first chance. You have to look everywhere. Look beyond the shelter of your home and of your province. Look beyond Canada. Look far and wide.
Writer letters to universities to see if there are opportunities in your field. Use the library on campus. Write to government agencies. Ask your religious institution. Surf the Internet. Advertise yourself.
Look at the classified and job ads in newspapers. You would be surprised at how many there are. Answer them. Don't eliminate an opportunity just because it isn't perfect.
Read the business section of the Globe and Mail newspaper. It will tell you which companies and which industries are doing well and expanding. Write to their human resources department. Describe yourself, your personal interests and what you want to do with your life. Don't stop writing until you get a job.
Look outside your field. Take any job. A lot of jobs today are short-term. Take them. You have nothing to lose. Learn from each job. Move on to something else. You will probably have several "careers" before you end up in the one you really want.
Be creative. Be persistent. Never give up. Leave no stone unturned. Don't let any opportunity pass you by. In every initiative you take, demonstrate your willingness to learn and to be trained. Show enthusiasm. Be realistic in what you ask for and what you expect.
There are jobs. There are jobs in the old economy. But there are many more opportunities in the new economy. New industries are emerging every day. For example, the convergence of information technologies and the development of computers are revolutionizing the way people communicate. New ground is being broken every day in biotechnology. The pharmaceutical industry is booming. Books and reports are being published in CD-ROM versions.
The information highway is being built across Canada and connecting the world. We are entering the 500-channel universe on television. Satellite and microwave technology and cellular phones are being used in a variety of applications. The world is going digital. Hundreds of thousands of new jobs are being created around the world. The highway needs content and people are needed who can create and develop the content.
This is the new economy. It exists today. It is being created right before our very eyes.
The fishery and the pulp mill will not sustain the Newfoundland or the Canada of the future. Look to emerging industries. You will be the inventors and the creators of this new world.
And there's hope in more traditional positions. At the present time, a lot of jobs are held by people in their late 50s and early 60s, the so-called baby boomers. In a few years these people will be retiring and this will change the employment picture considerably.
As governments reduce their deficits, they will eventually be in a position to find the resources for new products. That will create jobs in the not-too-distant future. The Voisey Bay development is coming, bringing with it many new opportunities. You must be prepared.
Everything you do between now and whenever you find the job you really want will be useful. You will acquire real workplace skills. You will be a more valuable resource to an employer. Your experience may lead you to start your own business.
Harsh lessons may lie ahead. But you must persevere. Your job is somewhere out there. Someone may be doing it right now or it may just be waiting for you to find it. It could be in Corner Brook, St. John's, Montreal or Vancouver. Or it could be in New York, London or Tokyo.
The road my be long, with many twists and turns, but it will eventually lead you to where you want to be. Never get discouraged, no matter the disappointments along the way. Look towards the future and follow your dream.
Today is your day. It is an important time in your lives. You have achieved distinction. You have made your parents proud.
Remember this moment. The degree you have obtained is a recognition of success. Apply the things you have learned here in your job search. While your degree is not a ticket for a job like it used to be, it represents an advantage in today's marketplace. Be proud of what you have accomplished. Build on it for the future.
As you go forward, I ask that you also remember this institution. Remember to give back some of what it has given you.