The president of St. Clair College describes Ontario's education sector as "badly, badly managed."

"The post-secondary system in this country ... is out-dated," John Strasser said. "I believe the days of simply going and getting a university degree and then a good job are over."

Returning to school after graduation is becoming more common.

According to the National Graduates Survey conducted by Statistics Canada, data shows that although most graduating students did not pursue further education immediately after graduation, more graduating students in the class of 2005 continued with their studies after graduation than those of the class of 2000.

More than one third of the entire class of 2005 pursued further education. Of that class, 42 per cent of bachelor level graduates pursued further education.

"What's important for students to understand is that what they perceive as the end of their education isn't necessarily the end. You may require additional training beyond that," said Herman High School's head of guidance, Teresa Piskovic.

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This chart illustrates the number of university graduates in the classes of 2000 and 2005 who eventually returned to school. (Statistics Canada)

Strasser said the number of university graduates enrolling at St. Clair College is "dramatically on the rise."

He said five per cent of enrollment is now students who have graduated from university. Strasser didn't say how many college students are currently enrolled after leaving university before completing a degree.

'It's all about getting a job.'— John Strasser, St. Clair College

"Students coming into a [post-secondary school] system have to be looking at getting a job. If you're not trying to establish a system to accomplish that at the end, you're doing a disservice to the students," Strasser said. "It is all about getting a job. We have an obligation to people finishing high school to provide them something that will help them get along in life."

Jessca Bevan recently graduated from the college's dental hygiene program. After graduating from Holy Names high school, she immediately went to university to study biomedical science. She quit after one year.

"I never knew anything about college in high school. No one ever told me about college," she said.

Now, with a diploma in hand, she plans on taking dental science at the University of B.C.

Colleges want to offer degrees

Strasser said the line between colleges and university "will disappear" within a decade.

Last fall, Ontario's 24 colleges tabled the 26-page report Empowering Ontario: Transforming Higher Education in the 21st Century. The report sent to the province asks the government to allow colleges to offer three-year degrees in place of diplomas.

Bevan and third-year University of Windsor chemistry major Jelena Derete aren't sure what any degree is worth today.

"They don't care if you have a degree, they want work experience," Bevan said of employers.

"It's just an undergraduate, you can't do much with it," Derete said. "I think it's more about higher learning [at university]. I think you learn more stuff on the job."

University of Windsor to 'reshape' itself

University of Windsor president Alan Wildeman announced last month that the school is trying to "reshape" and "re-imagine" itself.

During an address to students and alumni, he said the school should focus on Great Lakes research, sustainable communities and border issues — three local issues that could create jobs in Windsor-Essex, where the city's jobless rate of 9.2 per cent in February was fifth-highest in Canada.

The university is already home to the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research. It also stands in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge, North America’s busiest border crossing.

'The whole issue of jobs is very important to students.'— Alan Wildeman, University of Windsor president

"The whole issue of jobs is very important to students, as is affordable education," Wildeman told CBC News. "We do need to be doing more.

"Every university needs to ask: What can we be doing to provide students more entrepreneurial experience; more experience to start a company; more hands-on experience; and more co-op training opportunities? All of those are very important."

The University of Windsor has partnered with Workforce Windsor-Essex to provide workshops to students in five faculties" The "Beyond the Obvious" program helps university find different uses for the skills and degrees they obtain at the school.

The University of Windsor's Odette School of Business also offers a Student Career Service Centre.

Business students are able to access one-on-one career advising appointments year-round. The centre offers:

  • Resume development and cover letter preparation.
  • Job search exploration and employment strategies.
  • Educational options.
  • Mock interview sessions.
  • Skill assessment tools.
  • Career leader resume clinics.

"But we also have to continue to be a university; continue be a place that opens minds and discovers new knowledge," Wildeman said.

CBC Windsor will hold a  town hall examining youth unemployment. Help Wanted: Is education failing our students? will happen March 20 at the University of Windsor Engineering building, beginning at 7 p.m. Panellists include University of Windsor president Alan Wildeman, St. Clair College president John Strasser, economist Mark Meldrum and Rylan Kinnon, the executive director of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance.

Beginning March 18, tune into The Early Shift and The Bridge on 97.5 FM at 6 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively, and CBC Windsor at Six on channel 9, cable 10 and Bell 587 at 6 p.m., for continue coverage of this topic.

For even more coverage and exclusive web extras, log onto www.cbc.ca/windsor.