By Daksha Rangan
According to the federal government, Canadian post-secondary graduates are becoming less beneficial to the economy. With an increase in the number of humanities and arts degrees among today’s graduates, plenty of skilled-trade jobs remain vacant.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has suggested that Canada’s new federal budget will aim to focus on the improvement of skills training, in order to boost Canadian infrastructure through the manufacturing sector.
The training provided in Canada, according to Flaherty, does not match the skills employers are searching for.
It’s a problem reporter Matt Gurney has argued is compounded by students not paying attention to industry movements, and governments that continue to help students pay for a less useful degree.
“The educational choices of these young Canadians are steering them into fields that are either dead ends, low-paying or hopelessly glutted with applicants,” he wrote in a recent National Post column. “If they’d all just take up welding or natural resources extraction, with a minor in information technology, all our problems would be solved.”
But Niyati Shah, a fourth-year arts and contemporary studies student at Ryerson, said there is a lot of demand to pursue universitylevel education that doesn’t focus on skilled trade industries.
Shah, whose degree will have a focus on Global Studies, said arts degrees should be given more credit for their specializations.
Programs like political science and policy making are an important part of the foundations of society, Shah added. “You need people who know how to do these things well.
It’s how we can influence change.” Shah said financial incentives such as government training programs will not only strengthen college education and practical training, but also encourage students to obtain other forms of post-secondary accredation.
Roman Kroshinsky is a fourthyear Business Technology Management student at Ryerson. In a technologically advancing world, Kroshinsky says IT jobs are also in abundance for graduates.
“Corporations have a lot of divisions, and information technology is one of the newer ones in terms of it being more mandatory for companies,” Kroshinsky said.
But rather than investing in the trades at a post-secondary level, Kroshinsky says these skills should be taught in the elementary and secondary school systems.
“If kids grasp these concepts at an earlier age, they’re going to be so much more proficient at it when they do hit the workforce,” he said.
One student who decided to pursue college education, Yasiel Sambra Rios, an architecture student at George Brown College, said he felt college better alligned him to enter the workforce.
“It’s a pretty useful program, it’s more hands-on,” he said.
“The teachers here actually work in the trades, half of them don’t even go to teacher’s college. They work outside in the field, in firms and job sites, and then they come here and teach what they know.”
The notion that knowledge-based industry professionals are the only asset to the economy needs to disappear to make skilled trades more appealing to students. Shah said.
“There has to be a process to make sure the two are on the same level, college and university,” she said. “Obviously there is no shortage of jobs in the skilled trades, so people need to feel like they can go to college if they want.” Despite a sense that arts degrees do not lead to direct employment, Ryerson President Sheldon Levy disagreed.
Data from the university planning office shows that 2008 graduates from social sciences programs had a 90 per cent employment rate six months after graduation.
“The data just doesn’t bear it out,” he said. “Ask how many bank presidents came through the social sciences and humanities, or how many leaders of our country are [educated] through the social sciences or humanities, too. Are they irrelevant?”