Ontario falling short on education

Seventy per cent of new jobs will require post-secondary education, but only half of 25 to 34 year olds graduate college or university

The Ontario government must increase full-time college enrolment by 30,000 in the next five years to produce the skilled workforce needed for the knowledge economy, a recent report found.

"We aren't producing the numbers of highly skilled graduates needed to replace an aging workforce and strengthen Ontario's competitive advantage," said Rick Miner, chair of the Ontario colleges' committee of presidents.

"If we don't set a clear plan and targets for improvement, we run a serious risk of not providing the province with the numbers and types of workers required for our knowledge-based economy."

The report What we heard, based on consultations held by Ontario colleges last year, found at least 70 per cent of new job openings in Canada will require post-secondary education in the next few years.

However, only 53 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds in Ontario have a post-secondary education. Currently, there are 150,000 full-time and 350,000 part-time students in Ontario colleges.

To increase this number by 30,000, the government must increase its annual operating funding to colleges by more than $200 million, the report stated.

It also found that Ontario is losing jobs — 30,000 in the manufacturing sector this January alone — and needs colleges to support a revitalized economic model.

About 2,000 people participated in the consultations, and more than 600 companies were represented.

Participants reported widespread concerns about job losses in manufacturing, the auto sector and in the paper mills in the North. They were also worried that Canada doesn't have a national skills strategy to boost productivity and competitiveness.

"Ontario needs post-secondary graduates to succeed and most of the graduates will have to be educated and trained in the colleges," Miner said. "Our political leaders must set a course of action for the workforce challenges ahead and Ontario's 24 colleges must be central to that vision."

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