A 2015 study by the Treasury Office of the Treasury Board indicated that 56% of university grads under the age of 25 are underemployed – working in jobs that do not require a university degree. You may have a recent grad living in your basement. You have made a significant investment in your child’s education. You have ensured that they attended good schools, helped them with countless projects and assignments, met with dozens of teachers, participated in school events, supported them emotionally and likely contributed significantly to the $60,000 cost of a four-year university program. If they attended an independent high school, you can add another $100,000 to your investment.
What is going on? In 1980 there were 65 degree granting universities in Canada – there are now 246. Almost 300,000 university graduates enter the Canadian job market every year – in 1980 the number was 100,000. The growth in the Canadian economy since 1980 has been less than half the growth in the number of university graduates. Companies are not hiring the way they used to – major organizations have announced significant staff reductions in the past year. Baby boomers are hanging on. Most importantly, technology is eliminating many entry level jobs.
But here is more. In 2016, McKinsey and Company, a global management consultancy, partnered with the United Way, and undertook a major research initiative the results of which were published in their report Youth in Transition: Bridging Canada’s path from education to employment.
The findings and conclusions in the report are astounding!
Here are some of the highlights:
- Canada’s employers in specific sectors think there are adequate number of graduates.
- The vast majority of educators believe they are graduating high performers yet more than half of employers believe new graduates are unprepared for the labour force, as do most youth.
- Certain groups face serious barriers even with post secondary qualifications – minorities, those who had parents with lower education levels, and those with liberal arts degrees.
Of course, employers think there are an adequate number of graduates – the supply exceeds the demand in most sectors by a huge margin.
There are major gaps between what educators and employers believe are important skills. Work ethic, English proficiency, teamwork and spoken communication were highly valued by employers but not so much by educators.
Particularly disconcerting is that Canadian education providers do not regard helping their students find employment as a leading priority. It was 8th on an list of 10. The number one was “Attracting Students” – this is all about them and not their clients! The Canadian educational funding model drives some very interesting behaviour!
Let’s talk about an “Ivory Tower”. One in five Canadian employers reported that they had no interaction whatsoever with education providers and 70% said they “occasionally” interacted with providers. In Germany the number is over 25% reporting that the interacted “monthly or more” with providers – the same statistic for Canada is 9%.
The academics will argue that it is not their job to equip students for work – their job is to train their minds and teach them how to think. Give me a break. Finding our calling – work that is truly meaning to us – is critical to us as individuals. It is an integral element of who we are. Ask students why they go to university – it is not to get their mind trained or learn to think or whatever – it is a to launch them on a career that will help them find their calling. They, and their parents, are not getting a good return on their investment.