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Post-Secondary Institutions Need to do a Better Job at Arming Graduates With Employability Skills

Ottawa, May 10, 2016– Despite Canada having one of the highest levels of educational attainment in the world, employers often voice concerns about a lack of skills among recent graduates. As a new class of post-secondary graduates prepares to enter the world of work, a new Conference Board of Canada report suggests that Canadian post-secondary institutions need to do a better job at matching their education programs to labour market needs.

Ottawa, May 10, 2016—Despite Canada having one of the highest levels of educational attainment in the world, employers often voice concerns about a lack of skills among recent graduates. As a new class of post-secondary graduates prepares to enter the world of work, a new Conference Board of Canada report suggests that Canadian post-secondary institutions need to do a better job at matching their education programs to labour market needs.

“Aligning skills to the labour market is critically important to our overall economy and Canadians’ life satisfaction,” says Michael Bloom, Vice-President, Industry and Business Strategy, The Conference Board of Canada. “Skills mismatches can result in underemployment or overemployment, which in turn leads to unhappy employees, and poor workplace performance.”

Highlights

  • Canadian companies often have difficulty finding people with the right skills for available jobs.
  • Canada’s post-secondary institutions need to do a better job at matching their curricula, pedagogy and programs to labour market needs.
  • Better matching would be possible through multiple strategies including improved labour market information systems, shorter school-to-work transitions, partnerships between employers and educators, and informed employers.

Roughly 53 per cent of Canadian adults hold a university or college credential, and another 12 per cent hold trade certificates. However, previous Conference Board research found that over 70 per cent of employers saw gaps in job candidates’ and recent hires’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Between one-third and one-half also said that they observed deficits in literacy, communication, and teamwork skills among recent graduates and job candidates.

The report, Aligning Skills Development With Labour Market Need, examines the paradox of rising levels of education attainment and skills shortages. It finds that the skills gaps and mismatches can be explained in part by how much individual disciplines align to the world of work.

Many programs of study—most notably in business, finance, engineering, and health care—have excellent alignment between curricula, the development of knowledge, essential skills, technique and workplace skills and their application. These programs offer a clear pathway from post-secondary education to supervised training and mentorship and actual practice. Graduates from vocationally-oriented disciplines are much more likely to work in their field and also tend to earn more.

However, graduates from programs that lack cooperative education, internships or apprenticeships are more likely to develop skills that are not as relevant to employers or where the fit to the world of work is not as close.

The report recommends four strategies to address weak alignment between skills development and labour market needs, including:

  • Ensure recent graduates and employers have access to the latest information on Canada’s labour market to make the best possible decisions (e.g., skills needed and skills available);
  • Improve collaboration between governments and post-secondary institutions to adapt curricula and respond to increases in demand for skills;
  • Encourage partnerships between employers and educators to integrate cooperative education, internships and apprenticeships into post-secondary learning; and
  • Expand scale and scope of employee training to enhance employees’ skills and capabilities for innovation and high performance.

This report, Aligning Skills Development With Labour Market Need, is available via The Conference Board of Canada’s e-Library.


For more information contact

Corporate Communications
613-526-3280
corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca


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