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Nov 24

Graduating into a Crisis: Entering the Workforce During the COVID Recession

Webinar with Brenda Brouwer, John Hepburn and Rachel Wernick

Sponsored by:

Many students who graduated this past spring are still struggling to enter the labour market and will soon be joined by even more graduates in December. What does this mean for a young workforce? Students graduating into a challenging economic environment typically face higher rates of unemployment, lower earnings during the first decade of their careers, and fewer opportunities to build skills for a competitive workforce. Join the C.D. Howe Institute on Tuesday, November 24 to hear an expert panel discuss policies to support graduating students who are coming to be known as the new “lost generation”.


C.D. Howe Institute events and webinars are open to members and their guests.

Please follow this link or contact events@cdhowe.org to register.


Brenda Brouwer, Interim Dean, Smith School of Business, Queen's University

Brenda Brouwer was appointed Interim Dean of Smith School of Business in November 2019. Since then she has focused on executing Smith’s strategy of offering innovative, relevant programs, supporting high quality research, and advancing initiatives in equity, diversity, inclusion and Indigenization (EDII). She has led the drive to deliver more online learning options across Smith’s portfolio of degree and non-degree programs. Most recently, she formed the Smith EDII Task Force, which she co-chairs, with a mandate to develop and execute a data and experience-informed EDII strategic plan which will include metrics and performance indicators to evaluate progress and assess impact.

Dr. Brouwer recently completed a secondment with the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Toronto, where she joined the executive team as Head, Academic Partnerships. In this role she developed and led the talent development initiative, cultivating relationships between universities and industry to build a pipeline of well-trained graduates that organizations at the forefront of AI in Canada seek.

Prior to her secondment at the Vector Institute, Dr. Brouwer was Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Queen’s for eight years, preceded by five years as the Associate Dean.

Dr. Brouwer joined Queen’s after completing a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Toronto. She holds a BSc in Kinesiology (University of Waterloo) and an MSc in Biomechanics (McGill University). She is a professor in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy with cross appointments to the School of Kinesiology & Health Studies and the Centre for Neuroscience Studies. Dr. Brouwer maintains a successful research program that focuses on quantifying the biomechanical, neuromuscular and metabolic demands of mobility in healthy aging and stroke.


John Hepburn, Chief Executive Officer and Scientific Director, Mitacs

John Hepburn studied at the University of Waterloo (BSc, 1976) and the University of Toronto (PhD, 1980), followed by two years as a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He began his academic career back at the University of Waterloo, where he was appointed an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Physics in 1982, and ultimately Chair of Chemistry in1998.

In 2001, he moved to the University of British Columbia as Head of Chemistry and Professor of Chemistry with a joint appointment to Physics & Astronomy. He became Dean of Science in 2003, and Vice-President, Research in 2005. The international portfolio was added to his list of responsibilities in August 2009. In June 2016, he became Vice-President, Research and Partnerships at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) and served in that role until January 2020. He began as CEO and Scientific Director of Mitacs in February 2020.

John Hepburn has served on numerous boards and advisory committees, both nationally and internationally. He is currently on the Boards for WestGrid (as Chair), Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Marine Shipping, and BrainsCAN (a CFREF-funded research centre of excellence), and is on the advisory committee for the France-Canada Research Fund.


Rachel Wernick, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Skills and Employment Branch, Employment and Social Development Canada

Rachel Wernick is Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Skills and Employment Branch (SEB) at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).  Early in her career, Rachel held a variety of policy and program positions within former versions of the Department (HRDC, HRSDC) including Employment Insurance policy, and Literacy and Essential Skills programming.

Before joining ESDC, Rachel was Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy, Planning and Corporate Affairs at Canadian Heritage. Prior to this, Rachel held executive positions with the Privy Council Office, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and created and led the National Fighter Procurement Secretariat within Public Works and Government Services Canada.  Rachel is Co-Champion of the Clerk’s Policy Community initiative, which aims to enhance supports for policy professionals across the Government of Canada.

Rachel holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with Joint Honours in Political Science and History from McGill University and a Graduate Diploma in International Development and Cooperation from the University of Ottawa. Following her graduate studies, Rachel worked with several international development organizations, including two years working in a Vietnamese refugee camp in Malaysia. 

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