Should the education system be tailored to better fit the job market in Canada?
On Cross Country Checkup: learning for jobs
The evidence is piling up that many post-secondary students are studying subjects for which they will never find jobs.
At the same time there are jobs going begging ...but no graduates to fill them.
What do you think?
Should the education system be tailored to better fit the job market in Canada?
With guest host Andrew Nichols.
Toll-free number 1-888-416-8333 (works only during the broadcast)
This must be a difficult time to be a student; trying to decide which direction to go in life, with all the headlines of failing economies and job losses around the globe. Canada has been relatively lucky in escaping the worst seen in the U.S. and parts of Europe.
But a new survey has revealed a disturbing trend in the Toronto region that is quite likely indicative of the whole country. The survey compared numbers of graduates in certain fields, to available jobs. It found that many university students -- the vast majority in certain fields -- will not find jobs. It also found that there are thousands of jobs going begging in fields for which there are not nearly enough graduates.
So, what's going wrong? How can young people be so misdirected in their hopes for their future careers? Is this the fault of a changing economy? Is it because there aren't enough ties between the education system and business and industry?
Some say that too many students are enrolling in universities thinking their studies will lead to a job when universities are not specifically designed for job training. They say many students would be better off pursing studies in community colleges that lead directly to jobs.
We want to talk about the post-secondary education system in Canada. It rates pretty well in comparison to other countries in the world but it does not rate so well when it comes to matching learning with jobs.
The difficulty in making changes to Canada's education system is that it is not really one system ...it is 10 provincial and 3 territorial systems. The ministers do meet, but there is no real venue or avenue where national concerns can be considered and implemented. Canada is the only country out of 200 in the developed world that does not have a national minister of education.
What do you think? Should there be some sort of national body that would concern itself with best practices and common concerns, and perhaps even a national job strategy? Has our education system been too slow in meeting the specific and practical needs of the labour market?
Should schools do a better job of streaming students into areas in which they have a greater likelihood of finding employment? Are high school students not receiving the guidance they need to find meaningful work?
Is it time for students, parents, teachers, and politicians to take stock of our changing economy and reconsider the options in education?
Our question today: "Should the education system be tailored to better fit the job market in Canada?"
I'm Andrew Nichols sitting-in for Rex Murphy ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.
President and CEO of the Canadian Council on Learning. Distinguished Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Policy, University of Ottawa.
President and CEO of Bow Valley College. Board member of Association of Canadian Community Colleges
Professor of Biology and Associate Dean, Research and Partnerships Faculty of Science and Engineering,York University.
Globe and Mail
- Education, not just immigration, key to skill shortage problem: college association
- Labour shortage becoming 'desperate'
- Canada needs more bang from university research
- Will an undergrad degree really help you get a better job?
- Why university shouldn't just be a ticket to a job
- Why job growth may favour college grads, apprentices over university students
- Toronto tech jobs in high demand but geek factor drives candidates away
The Canadian Council on Learning
I feel the topic of the program misses one important point. Employers have laid almost the entire responsibility for educating employees on the shoulders of the school system. In Europe, corporations hire people with the aptitude to succeed and then spend the time and money to train them. North American corporations have cut costs by expecting this training to be funded by the taxpayer.
Kamloops, British Columbia
What you are talking about [on the program today] is training. What the education system is responsible for is education. There are certain universal skills required for all jobs and occupations, meaning language training, arthemetic and mathematics, arts etc. and it is the educational system's responsibility to raise the level of these essential skills.
Training is the respoinsibility of primarily colleges. Some training is attainable in university, ie: doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists and professionals of that tier.
I believe that our current approach to education is an unfortunate one. We focus so hard on "getting a job" as the ultimate goal of education, which I believe is a mistaken emphasis. In the history of education, this is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Education, after the high-school level, has two purposes, only one of which is acknowledged these days. Traditionally, education did as we do now, and prepared young people for their working lives, with the addition of a component that also prepared young people to think, to learn, to thirst for knowledge, and to be better human beings. It is this latter, generalist component that seems to have gone missing from our educational system. That is regrettable.
I believe that youth who enjoy this latter type of education, along with more focussed, directed education for specific types of work, do better in life than those who only have the work-focussed component of learning. It is that component that helps young people to become not merely "good workers" but also well-rounded people, who have the ability not only to work, but also to adapt, to exercise rational, ethical, measured participation not only in their work, but in life in general.
I agree that there should be more opportunities to match students, high school and university, with employers. I teach law at UVic, and we do our best to provide opportunities for our students to have real world experiences before they graduate and go to their first jobs as articled students. But we can't teach them how to practice law at the university. I practiced law for nearly 14 years in the private sector before becoming a professor, so I know what it is like. We don't have the structures, budgets or circumstances to create a realistic law practice environment on campus, we can only give tastes of it through practice exercises, moot court competitions, and some legal clinical programs. Maybe we should shorten the academic part of legal education, but instead, the legal profession is considering eliminating the post-graduate practical side of becoming a lawyer.
Victoria, British Columbia
It has been all too easy in the past to import our skilled workers. We are always lamenting that we do not have enough skilled Canadians. Yet there has been no move to educate and train our youth. This is the fault of the Government, Employers and Unions. The wait lists are too long to get into training and when you are finally able to get your courses it is all but impossible to get into an apprenticeship. It should be mandatory to have apprentices in all trades if you have over a given number of employees. This program could be subsidized to offset the cost of training for the employer. It isn't so much that people prefer to got to University as much as the horror stories from friends and family trying for years to get the hours in to become a Journeyman and start paying down your student loans. It's time to overhaul the education system to give Canadian youth a future.
Sooke, British Columbia
If high schools did a better job of equipping students with basic literacy, numeracy and thinking skills, they could complete a university degree in three years (as happens in the UK).
Then, being more mature, they could spend that fourth year on specific vocational training - at university, community college or in an apprenticeship or mentoring scheme, as appropriate.
There is little or no formal recognition for students who complete apprenticeship programs at community colleges. They will have learned, studied, and in fact practiced through work experience, the jobs that society actually needs.
If we value workers with such education, then these students should be acknowledged with as much fanfare as those who earn BAs. Parents want the best for their children, and tend to believe that formal acknowledgement indicates success. Parents might be more inclined to promote a course of study that leads to personal satisfaction as well as a good paycheck.
Victoria, British Columbia
Almost 60 years ago, before the great expansion in universities in the UK, the requirement to become an engineer was to serve a student apprenticeship to gain practical experience and at the same time to pursue the National Certificate program at a technical college or take a degree course followed by a post graduate apprenticeship program. These programs were paid and supported by industry and government and produced qualified engineers who would fit in with the needs of industry most of the time. These programs were gradually phased out as the universities expanded.
In Canada I found that university graduate engineers were woefully lacking in practical experience.
For 25 years we have talked about apprenticeships and really not done anything to allow apprentices to gain professional qualifications similar to what was offered a long time ago in the UK.
A move back to industry deciding what it needs and together with Government, financing this style of professional development is long overdue. Industry should pay for or train the people we need.
As a citizen of Switzerland as well as Canada, I have experience with how other countries do things. In Switzerland, students flow seamlessly from school into the world of work and an unemployment rate of 3.5% is considered an unprecedented crisis. A young cousin of mine is a typical example. In the equivalent of grade 12, he worked at a bank half-time and studied bank-related courses at school during the other half of the week, and he made excellent money while doing so. In essence, he was a well paid banking apprentice, and there are many other 'apprenticeships' like that available in Switzerland. Very few of our young people would drop out of school if they had this kind of opportunity and it's a shame that our various levels of government fail to model programs that are proven successes elsewhere.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Public Education should be more than training for specific jobs that may limit one's opportunities later in life. Job-specific training runs the risk of maintaining a socio-economic status quo that works well for those who enter at higher levels but prohibits others from enriching their lives. My own transition from working class to professional status was possible because far-sighted individuals saw the value of public education programs that encouraged creative problem solving and broad curricular areas of study. Of course workers require appropriate training and expertise to do their jobs effectively; however, such training should supplement but not replace the richness of broadbased curriculum.
Vancouver, British Columbia
I think many people who are going to school, who are living or are looking for work in Canada's biggest cities (Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary etc) are just spinning their wheels, stuck in the wrong location. Post-secondary graduates and young people especially should be encouraged to explore Canada to get to know the different regions and communities in this country. People need to look for new places in which they could build a better life and apply their skills. It is sad to know that thousands of people are wasting their time and losing their hard-earned money, trying to find work in places like the Lower Mainland where the cost of living is over 70% of an average person's income. People should explore the county as maybe they will find a new community in which their skills would be appreciated more. We need to have programs that encourage young people, especially college/university aged children of immigrants, to travel through Canada so they can have a bigger perspective on what opportunities actually exist within this great country of ours. Too many people get stuck in our cities and expect that the jobs will be there for them. We need to have the pioneering spirit back within our country so skilled, motivated people are actually able to use their skills and training to create prosperous, sustainable and healthy communities in every corner of the country.
Kamloops, British Columbia
When it comes down to it, the private sector, most of all, needs to try harder to provide much needed training and experience to those integrating back into the work world. This is a proactive move, it cannot simply be that the educational system or government have to do the brunt of the work. Being that the private sector holds the majority of jobs, government and the educational system need to inform the private sector proactively about opportunities and for the private sector to step forward and take responsibility in making our economy more robust and flexible, and able to move quickly in a global economy that is changing at a high pace by helping new grads. This does not mean a permanent job, it means gaining experience to move quickly up to being an effective employee.
As it stands, many grads and older re-trainee's end up finishing school and fall into underemployment, which hampers the strength of our economy as a whole.
By definition, we don't know what the future looks like, but we do know that it doesn't look like the present. If we limit university education to the today's job market, we will only be teaching the leaders of tomorrow how to think inside today's box. To prepare our country to face the future, we need a liberal arts education to teach the leaders of tomorrow how to think outside the box.
The corporate mentality that rules this country right now only wants our schools to produce serfs for their unquenchable greed. God forbid that we should continue to educate for imagination, goodness and altruism, never mind dreaming. I'd feel a lot better if all our educational institutions made courses in philosophy, language,and other so-called useless arts programs mandatory. I'd also be thrilled to use my tax dollars to subsidise these programs with grants as in the old days. Entrepreneurs come with arts graduates who've proved they can think.
1) Without an educated citizenry, who will conceive and build the Canada of tomorrow, who will populate the seats in parliament...and perhaps more importantly, keep our elected officials accountable to a standard beyond the values of the marketplace.
2) Even if it were a good idea -- which I am sure it is not -- to conflate education with narrowly defined job training, we need to acknowledge that our workplaces and their tools are changing at such a rapid rate that by the time any training period were completed, their training would be redundant.
The ideal employee for the work force of the future is one with a developed ability to think, research, analyze, innovate. These are skills that can be adapted to virtually every workplace.
I am really concerned with all these people talking about the need to study fields that get you a job right out of University, in other words, jobs such as engineering or applied sciences. We need artists, we need photographers, we need people who can write. Do all these people not watch tv or movies, go to museums and galleries, look at print ads, surf the net or do anything that makes life enjoyable?! And these jobs are there right out of university. People with arts degrees are not just fulfilling their dreams they are fulfilling all of our dreams by providing the joy in life. And for those who think that photography is a "hobby" keep to your flicker accounts and leave the skill of taking a photograph to the professionals.
St. John's, Newfoundland
Much is made of employers being unable to find the right employees. As others have pointed out, employers want perfectly-suited employees right now, without investing anything in the process themselves, and while retaining the right to drop those employees the minute there is a downturn in the economy. They will argue that they cannot compete otherwise. In my opinion, they cannot compete without a skilled, loyal workforce, and they cannot expect that without loyalty to and investment in their employees.