By Katherine George
University enrolment across Canada should decrease by 30 per cent and there should be more focus on colleges and polytechnic schools, said a report commissioned by the Canadian Council for Chief executives.
The report was written by Ken Coates, a professor at the School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan.
The study shows imbalances in the Canadian education system with an influx of generic ill-trained university qualifications and lack of real wage skilled workers.
“There is a significant need for skilled trades people in Ontario, according to economists and job forecasters, and that need is only going to grow in the future,” David Tsubouchi, CEO of Ontario College of Trades told Humber News.
Coates’ solution is to cut university enrolment from 25 to 30 per cent to improve the quality of education while maintaining budgets at the same level.
“There is a significant need for skilled trades people in Ontario, according to economists and job forecasters, and that need is only going to grow in the future.” – Tsubouchi
“Dashed dreams and unrealized expectations, more than deep financial and personal hardship, define the lives of large numbers of contemporary young Canadians,” Coates said in the report.
Coates emphasized a shortage of information from the government about job opportunities and employers needs.
“In the budget submission to the provincial government that we sent out in December, it clearly stated the government needs to make sure it’s looking at different priorities for funding in the coming year,” said Rob Savage, Director of Communications at Colleges Ontario.
“There is a recognizing need to ensure that students, including university graduates, have access to college programs,” he said.
Colleges end up training grads anyway
Along with the push for colleges instead of universities, comes recognition that the college system actually ends up providing training for a lot of university graduates.
Over the past five years the number of university graduates enrolled in college programs has increased more than 40 per cent, said Savage.
“A lot of people who graduate from university programs want to follow up with more career specific programs as part of their post secondary education,” said Savage.
Over the past five years the number of university graduates enrolled in college programs has increased more than 40 per cent. – Savage
Polytechnic schools succeed because they they are closely affiliated with employers and can adapt to changing workplace environments.
“There are changing attitudes and a growing awareness that students should be looking at both college and university programs to decide what is the best fit for them based on their own interests, goals and strengths,” said Savage.
Some colleges have teamed up with universities to give students the opportunity to pursue a combination of both university and college programs, he said.
“This allows them to complete their education in a timely manner and with less cost,” said Savage.
Coates told Humber News he is excited about the future prospects of this kind of parallel learning environment.
“This is excellent preparation for students with the right skill sets,” said Coates.
Most often, students are open to college, but the parents are resistant, Savage said.
“There is a sense that kids have to go to university. Parents need to look at all the options and really decide which is best for each particular student,” he said.
“A career in the skilled trades should be a first choice for more of our youth, including young women, aboriginals and new Canadians.” – Tsubouchi
Tsubouchi, a former cabinet minister in Ontario, agreed that colleges offer great choices for some learners.
“A career in the skilled trades should be a first choice for more of our youth, including young women, aboriginals and new Canadians,” said Tsubouchi.
Skilled Trades offers students the opportunity to earn while they learn, said Tsubouchi.
“I can’t think of another career path that can offer that kind of financial incentive.”
What does the future hold
The problem is not the students or the institutions, said Coates, but rather the changing world of work.
“I am a pessimistic. Technology eliminates many jobs and it not clear yet where the replacement jobs are going to click in,” said Coates. “Young people will have to learn to be more self-reliant, flexible and much more entrepreneurial.”
“It’s not fair or just, but the future does not look a lot like the past,” he said.