Employment rate highest for Ontario university grads: report

Feb 25, 2014 | News

University graduates . Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

University graduates have been making up an increasing share of the job market in Ontario recently. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

By Joshua Sherman

Job prospects for Ontario university graduates may not be as grim as some have suggested, according to a new report from the Council of Ontario Universities.

“This report uses empirical data to debunk anecdotal reports about unemployed and under-employed university students,” council chair Max Blouw said in a news release posted Tuesday.

“The statistics show very clearly that a university education leads to success in the labour market.”

According to the report, which based its findings on data from Statistics Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, university graduates make up the biggest share of the workforce ages 15 and over at 30 per cent in 2012, up from 23 per cent in 2002, a 7 per cent difference.

In comparison, over that same period for college program graduates, the workforce share rose 4 per cent to a 26 per cent share overall, the report found.

In 2012, the unemployment rate among Ontarians over the age of 15 with at least a bachelor’s degree was about 6 per cent, compared to trades school graduates at 7 per cent, high school graduates at 9 per cent, and college program grads at about 5.5 per cent.

Graduates who had more than a bachelor’s degree were the least unemployed with a jobless rate of rate of just 5 per cent.

The 2012 employment rate, which is based on the number of people employed compared to the total population, was highest for university graduates, particularly those with more than a bachelor’s degree. That group had an employment rate of about 77 per cent.

Baccalaureate graduates and college diploma graduates were slightly behind at about 75 per cent and 74 per cent respectively.

Cecelia Brain, the author of the report, said one factor that makes university graduates so successful in the job market is the breadth a university education provides.

“Even our engineers, who also have to take humanities and explore things outside of their jobs … will learn a certain type of engineering in a very broad way and that gives them some flexibility (in the job market),” she said.

She said university graduates are taught a variety of widely applicable abilities – such as critical thinking and social skills – that prepare them for a variety of job opportunities.

Brandon Sloan, a spokesperson for the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, echoed Brain’s statements on the versatility of university degrees.

“I think the nature of many university degrees, especially at the undergraduate level, is that students are imparted with a lot of soft skills that are very easily transferable between industries,” he told Humber News.

Sloan said that as someone who graduated with a BA from Queen’s University in political studies, he experienced these benefits first hand.

“I had a lot of opportunities to hone my writing skills through producing essays and presentations,” he said. “Through a debate I would have in class I would get to hone my public speaking skills and my communication skills.”

“These types of skills translate quite well in between different positions, so I think that’s why university graduates have done comparatively well to other forms of (post secondary education), especially since the 2008 recession.”

Over time, Brain expects job prospects for all post-secondary graduates to improve as the economy continues to recover from the recession, she said.

“I think that college, university and trades people are going to have more employment opportunities” as the manufacturing sector and primary industries pick up, she noted.

“I expect everybody’s unemployment rate to go down,” she said.