Canada needs to fix link between post-secondary education, workforce: Conference Board

Employers should offer more education resources, retraining
||Last Updated: 04/03/2013

Canada’s system of education and skills remains one of the best in the world, but needs to do much better at matching what Canadians learn to evolving labour market needs, according to a report by the Conference Board of Canada.

Canada ranks second only to Finland among 16 developed countries in the Education and Skills report card. As part of its overall “A” grade, Canada earns “A”s on seven of 20 indicators — including the second-highest rate of high school completion and the top rate of college completion.

“Canada gives its students a first-rate education at the primary and secondary levels,” said Daniel Muzyka, president and CEO of the Conference Board of Canada. “Our priority must be to build on this strong foundation to make Canada more innovative, competitive and dynamic.”

“A pressing need is to strengthen the links between high school and the post-secondary system. Within the post-secondary system, we must improve co-ordination among offerings, thereby creating better pathways to workplaces, jobs and careers. And Canadian employers need to step forward with increased resources for education and retraining of their workers.”

Canada’s university completion rate is a “B” grade. In the United States, which gets an “A” grade on this indicator, people may be more motivated to complete university because of the high returns on their university investments.

Canadian university graduates get a comparatively lower payback for their educational investment, according to two new indicators. Canada gets a “B” for return on investment in post-secondary education (women) and “C” for return on investment in post-secondary education (men). On another new indicator, Canada has relatively significant gender gap in tertiary education —for every 100 women who graduate from universities and colleges, only 83 men do so.

And Canada continues to get a “C” grade for percentage of university graduates in science, math, computer science and engineering. Only 21 per cent of Canada’s university graduates are in these fields, the third consecutive year that this share has declined, found the report.

When it comes to adult participation in non-formal job-related education, Canada gets a “C” grade and ranks 10th of 15 countries.

This relatively low grade on non-formal job-related training illustrates how Canada lags in workplace skills training and lifelong education. Canadian employers’ investments in workplace training programs lag far behind European and U.S. competitors, and only a very small percentage of what they do invest—less than two per cent—goes to basic literacy skills.

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