Back to School….

As students across the country go back to school today, it’s timely to turn our attention to the role education plays in the future of this country, and of Canadians.  Education is a critical platform in “CanadaWorks 2025”, which examines possible scenarios for the Canadian economy, society and the workplace.   While the Canadian education system has served past generations well in providing universal instruction and preparation for a traditional workforce, that system has long become outdated and no longer serves today’s world, or the world of the future.  Canada’s youth will not be competitive, or even merely employable, if the post-secondary education system in this country does not prepare them for the jobs that will exist when they enter the workforce.  Today’s statistics already paint a troubling picture: in 2011, 14% of Canadian youth fell into the government’s NEET category – ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’, and another 15% were in temporary jobs.  While a third of youth are not employed in full-time work, half of that third wholly unemployed, the Federation of Independent Business found that, in 2011, one in twenty jobs were unfilled due to a lack of skilled labour.  That translates into 250,000 unfilled jobs in small- to medium-sized businesses alone.  If Ontario’s post-secondary education system is to support our economy, sustain our workforce and promote our youth in the workplace of the near future, CanadaWorks 2025 recommends that colleges and vocational schools need significantly increased support.  The consequence of not developing college and vocational programs that offer viable, practical training based on the realities of the labour market is that Canada will find itself in the worst of the report’s three scenarios – a lost decade, in which workers need to earn their living in an industrial, technologically- and resource-driven economy, but without the training to do so.   We think the education system has to meet the needs of students and employers responsively, and based on actual labour market data, if we don’t want a country in which Canadians are chronically over-educated and under-employed.  What changes do you think need to be made to education in Canada to achieve a future in which industry is healthy, the economy is competitive, innovation is flourishing and Canadians’ education meets the demand for their employment?

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