CanadaWorks 2025: The Role of Colleges and Vocational Schools in Achieving a Prosperous Future

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2 CanadaWorks 2025: The Role of Colleges and Vocational Schools in Achieving a Prosperous Future CanadaWorks 2025 In April 2012, the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA), in partnership with Deloitte Consulting, published a research report entitled CanadaWorks 2025 which examines possible scenarios for the Canadian economy, society and the workplace. Working from the assertion that the best way to predict the future is to invent it, the report answers the question What should decision makers do today to best position Canadian workplaces for success in 2025? Using a scenario-planning methodology, the report s authors developed three detailed scenarios for what the future might hold for Canada, depending on courses of action taken today. The most desirable of the three is called Northern Tiger a future in which industry is healthy, the economy is competitive, innovation is flourishing and Canadians education meets the demand for their employment. A critical platform in the Northern Tiger scenario, and a recurring theme in the report, is the issue of education. While the Canadian education system has served past generations well in providing universal instruction and preparation for a traditional workforce, that system has long become outdated and no longer serves today s world, or the world of the future. Canada s youth will not be competitive, or even merely employable, if the post-secondary education system in this country does not prepare them for the jobs that will exist when they enter the workforce. Today s statistics already paint a troubling picture: in 2011, 14% of Canadian youth fell into the government s NEET category Not in Education, Employment or Training, and another 15% were in temporary jobs. While a third of youth are not employed in full-time work, half of that third wholly unemployed, the Federation of Independent Business found that, in 2011, one in twenty jobs were unfilled due to a lack of skilled labour. That translates into 250,000 unfilled jobs in small- to medium-sized businesses alone. As the demand for skilled workers grows, so does the role of colleges, polytechnics and vocational schools in meeting that demand with a supply of job-ready graduates. The risks of focusing on, and funding, universities as the source of tomorrow s workers are serious. In 2009, the top three fields of undergraduate study in Canada were social and behavioural sciences, business management and the

3 humanities together they accounted for 50% of total enrollment. Meanwhile, at least 70% of jobs in the future will require an education in health care, technology, science and engineering. The numbers speak for themselves - a general education in the humanities will support neither the worker nor the workforce of the future. If Ontario s post-secondary education system is to support our economy, sustain our workforce and promote our youth in the workplace of the near future, colleges and vocational schools will require significantly increased support. We must move from broadly educating to specifically training, and need to renegotiate the role of community colleges, trade schools and apprenticeships in educating Canadians. The consequence of not developing college and vocational programs that offer viable, practical training based on the realities of the labour market is that Canada will find itself in the worst of the report s three scenarios a lost decade, in which workers need to earn their living in an industrial, technologically- and resource-driven economy, but without the training to do so. Canadians will be chronically over-educated and under-employed 1, resulting in a disengaged workforce, declining innovation and poor productivity. This will have a profound impact on life in Canada we will lose the jobs that we do have, we will lose the investments that we have made, and our standard of living will be eroded. The Canadian economy must meet the needs of students and employers responsively, and based on actual labour market data. It threatens our innovation, our competitiveness, our employment levels and creates a burden on our tax system that will become unsustainable well before It s critical that Canadian policymakers take a strategic decision about education as CanadaWorks 2025 says, educational mismatches lead to a job market with both people without jobs and jobs without people, all at once. Even if our economy does well relative to the U.S. and Europe, we have to ensure that educational choices will be aligned to shifting labour market demands. Canada will increasingly see graduates of programs in the humanities returning to college for a practice course in a field that actually requires workers, and increased funding for colleges represents a targeted enhancement to education 2 overall. 1 CW CW2025

4 If the best version of Canada in 2025 is based on a close matching of educational choices to job market demand, what needs to change, now, in order to achieve that synergy? i. Increase funding of colleges and polytechnic schools. Currently, only 1.25% of $2.9 billion in federal funding goes to colleges the remaining 98.75% goes to universities and research hospitals. Canada s colleges must receive more of that money for Canada to avoid a critical skills shortage in the near future. ii. iii. iv. Governments to use labour market data to project demand for skills, both in the near and distant futures, and on a rolling basis, amending those projections as the data change. Based on labour market projections, provide specific, targeted support to those programs and disciplines that will be in demand in the future, contributing to Canada s global competitiveness, increased productivity and lower unemployment. This does not mean spending more money it means spending money where it will benefit Canadians the most. CanadaWorks 2025 cites that today, tuition for engineering students is almost twice that for students enrolled in arts programs; in other words, the very educations that would most benefit the economy are often the most expensive. It has to be possible for students to pursue careers that will be in demand after they graduate not only to support innovation, but to support the tax base that will allow Canadians to continue to enjoy their high standard of living. Increase Canada s presence in the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics. The WFCP offers best global practices in education, thought leadership and public-private partnerships. The Association of Canadian Community Colleges is a member of the WFCP, and requires continued support from government in its membership, and in its visibility to Canadians. A month after CanadaWorks 2025 was released, its recommendations for education in Canada were echoed by the Government of Canada s announcement of funding for colleges across Canada. Noting that colleges currently support business innovation at more than three hundred Canadian companies, The Hon. Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, announced a $15.3 million investment in colleges, Cégeps and polytechnics through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The Minister noted the growing trend of Canadian companies looking to local colleges for innovation

5 and business growth, saying, Canada s colleges play an important role as we forge ahead with Canada s innovation agenda innovation needs to be a central focus. While this was a positive step in the right direction, government and colleges must continue to partner in economic growth and job creation, if we are to achieve Northern Tiger status in the Canada of 2025.

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