The job-mar­ket pa­yoff of a hands-on ba­che­lor’s de­gree

La Jornada (Canada) - - PORTADA -

The­re are ba­che­lor’s de­grees and the­re are ap­plied ba­che­lor’s de­grees. The dif­fe­ren­ce - when it co­mes to fin­ding ful­fi­lling em­ploy­ment - can be dra­ma­tic.

In la­te No­vem­ber, Sta­tis­tics Ca­na­da re­lea­sed its com­prehen­si­ve re­ports on edu­ca­tion, co­ve­ring a wi­de ran­ge of to­pics, in­clu­ding ove­rall edu­ca­tion at­tain­ment and the skills mis­mat­ches and ear­nings po­ten­tial of ba­che­lor’s de­gree gra­dua­tes in Ca­na­da.

Stat­sCan re­por­ted that in 2016, 54 per cent of Ca­na­dians aged 25 to 64 had eit­her co­lle­ge or uni­ver­sity qua­li­fi­ca­tions. Ca­na­da con­ti­nues to rank first among the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­no­mic Co-ope­ra­tion and De­ve­lop­ment (OECD) in the pro­por­tion of co­lle­ge and uni­ver­sity gra­dua­tes. That’s good news.

Ho­we­ver, des­pi­te our high le­vel of qua­li­fi­ca­tions, a con­sen­sus is al­so for­ming that tho­se loo­king to en­ter or re-en­ter the work­for­ce in Ca­na­da will fa­ce cha­llen­ging la­bour mar­ket con­di­tions in the co­ming years. Skills mis­mat­ches, au­to­ma­tion, dis­pla­ce­ment, un­der- em­ploy­ment, unem­ploy­ment and over­qua­li­fi­ca­tion are all top of mind for po­licy-ma­kers, high school lea­vers, re­cent gra­dua­tes and em­plo­yers ali­ke.

In fact, the over­qua­li­fi­ca­tion ra­te for ba­che­lor’s de­gree hol­ders ex­ceeds 20 per cent in se­ve­ral fields, ac­cor­ding to Sta­tis­tics Ca­na­da.

So how can we en­su­re that gra­dua­ting with a ba­che­lor’s de­gree is com­ple­men­ted by suc­cess­ful na­vi­ga­tion of the la­bour mar­ket?

One way is to reali­ze that not all ba­che­lor’s de­grees are the sa­me - many are ge­ne­ral and theory-ba­sed, but so­me are ap­plied, con­nec­ting know­led­ge and know-how. Even mo­re im­por­tant, we need to reali­ze that uni­ver­si­ties are not the only hig­her edu­ca­tion ins­ti­tu­tions that of­fer ba­che­lor’s de­grees.

De­gree-gran­ting co­lle­ges and Ca­na­da’s poly­tech­nic ins­ti­tu­tions of­fer mo­re than 180 stand-alo­ne ba­che­lor’s de­grees that are pu­blicly-fun­ded, ha­ve the full qua­lity as­su­ran­ce of the pro­vin­cial edu­ca­tion aut­ho­ri­ties and build im­por­tant work­pla­ce skills.

So how are they dif­fe­rent?

They’re ap­plied in na­tu­re, di­rectly lin­king lear­ning to ca­reer pre­pa­ra­tion; they cons­ti­tu­te an out­co­mes-ba­sed, mar­ket-dri­ven edu­ca­tion. The pur­po­se is to meet spe­ci­fic cu­rrent and fu­tu­re work­for­ce needs.

At a poly­tech­nic, for exam­ple, the cu­rri­cu­lum re­flects la­bour

mar­ket de­mands th­rough the gui­dan­ce of pro- gram ad­vi­sory com­mit­tees (PACs). Com­pri­sed of em­plo­yers, prac­ti­tio­ners and re­cent gra­dua­tes, the com­mit­tees iden­tify cu­rrent and fu­tu­re in­dustry trends and shifts in the skills that gra­dua­tes need to meet em­plo­yer de­mands. PACs al­so as­sess the ef­fec­ti­ve­ness of exis­ting pro­grams and ac­ti­vely par­ti­ci­pa­te in the de­ve­lop­ment of new pro­grams.

At On­ta­rio’s Co­nes­to­ga Co­lle­ge, for exam­ple, the Ba­che­lor of Pu­blic Re­la­tions (Ho­nours) pro­gram’s PAC con­sists of bu­si­nes­ses that ha­ve a sta­ke in de­ve­lo­ping lo­cal ta­lent, in­clu­ding or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Cen­tre for In­ter­na­tio­nal Go­ver­nan­ce In­no­va­tion; Com­mu­ni­tech; Ope­nText and Grand Ri­ver Hos­pi­tal in Kit­che­ner, Ont. Com­mit­tees such as the one at Co­nes­to­ga en­su­re that pro­grams are up to da­te and pre­pa­re gra­dua­tes with the skills re­qui­red to suc­cess­fully tran­si­tion in­to the la­bour mar­ket.

The­re’s al­so a dif­fe­ren­ce in who tea­ches ba­che­lor’s de­gree cour­ses at poly­tech­nics. Ski­lled prac­ti­tio­ners in their field of study pre­pa­re the stu­dents, not li­fe­long aca­de­mics. They’re ex­pe­rien­ced in­dus- try lea­ders and sub­ject mat­ter ex­perts, such as Neil Cox at the Bri­tish Co­lum­bia Ins­ti­tu­te of Tech­no­logy.

Cox is the pro­gram head for the Ba­che­lor of Elec­tri­cal En­gi­nee­ring pro­gram and tea­ches se­ve­ral cour­ses. He wor­ked in the in­dustry for mo­re than two de­ca­des, fo­cu­sing on the com­mer­cia­li­za­tion of di­gi­tal sig­nal pro­ces­sing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems. He al­so foun­ded a te­le­com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­duct de­ve­lop­ment com­pany.

Cox’s tea­ching phi­lo­sophy is ba­sed on hel­ping stu­dents ans­wer the ques­tion “Why?” He en­cou­ra­ges his stu­dents to go be­yond me­mo­ri­zing and sol­ving equa­tions, to really un­ders­tand the pro­blems that com­pa­nies fa­ce.

The lear­ning-by-doing mo­del of edu­ca­tion al­so means that poly­tech­nic stu­dents dee­pen their know­led­ge gai­ned in work­pla­ce set­tings. Work-in­te­gra­ted lear­ning is an im­por­tant com­po­nent. Of the 183 stand-alo­ne ba­che­lor’s de­grees of­fe­red by the 13 mem­bers of Poly­tech­nics Ca­na­da, over twot­hirds ha­ve a work in­te­gra­ted lear­ning com­po­nent, such as pro­fes­sio­nal prac­ti­ce, field ex­pe­rien­ce or co-op pla­ce­ment.

For exam­ple, in Geor­ge Brown Co­lle­ge’s ho­nours Ba­che­lor of Tech­no­logy (Cons­truc­tion Ma­na­ge­ment) pro­gram, stu­dents are pro­vi­ded with one field pla­ce­ment se­mes­ter. Du­ring their field pla­ce­ment, stu­dents prac­ti­se team-buil­ding, ma­na­ging and trac­king pro­ject re­sour­ces, analy­zing pro­ject per­for­man­ce, pre­pa­ring tech­ni­cal pro­po­sals and re­ports, and im­pro­ving their cons­truc­tion pro­ject ma­na­ge­ment skills - all in an en­vi­ron­ment si­mi­lar to the one in which they will even­tually work.

A si­mi­lar op­por­tu­nity exists for stu­dents at On­ta­rio’s She­ri­dan Co­lle­ge en­ro­lled in the ho­nours Ba­che­lor of Ani­ma­tion pro­gram. After their third year, stu­dents gain pro­fes­sio­nal ex­pe­rien­ce du­ring a th­ree-month work pla­ce­ment. At She­ri­dan’s an­nual In­dustry Day, em­plo­yers fly in from across North Ame­ri­ca to meet the stu­dents, view their work and con­duct in­ter­views on­si­te.

It’s work-in­te­gra­ted lear­ning op­por­tu­ni­ties such as the­se that con­tri­bu­te to strong gra­dua­te em­ploy­ment out­co­mes. The gra­dua­te em­ploy­ment ra­te for ba­che­lor’s de­gree hol­ders from Poly­tech­nics Ca­na­da’s mem­bers was 91 per cent in 2015-16.

Cen­sus da­ta re­lea­ses, such as the la­test on edu­ca­tion, will be the evi­den­ce used to gui­de fu­tu­re edu­ca­tion and la­bour mar­ket po­licy in Ca­na­da. So whi­le we ce­le­bra­te the suc­cess of de­gree at­tain­ment, we must dif­fe­ren­tia­te and har­ness pro­grams that ha­ve a po­si­ti­ve im­pact on the la­bour mar­ket, too.

So­me de­grees do ma­ke a dif­fe­ren­ce. -TROYMEDIA

No­bi­na Ro­bin­son is the chief exe­cu­ti­ve of­fi­cer of Poly­tech­nics Ca­na­da, a na­tio­nal as­so­cia­tion re­pre­sen­ting the lea­ding poly­tech­nics and co­lle­ges in Ca­na­da.

The gra­dua­te em­ploy­ment ra­te for ba­che­lor’s de­gree hol­ders from Poly­tech­nics Ca­na­da mem­bers was 91 per cent in 2015-16

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