Last week there was a news report about Canada being one of the best-educated countries in the world, all thanks to immigrants.
An internal government analysis shows that not only do many newcomers arrive with university degrees, 36 per cent of the children of immigrants aged 25 to 35 hold university degrees, compared to 24 per cent of their peers with Canadian-born parents.
This is almost written to make Canadians with tenure feel like losers compared to these fresh-off-the-boat over-achievers.
Degrees Don’t Prepare Graduates For Life
Studies routinely point to the fact that going forward, two-thirds of all jobs in the US and possibly in Canada will require more than high school degrees, but that only tells part of the story.
All university degrees are not equal and if they were, you’d find fewer aspiring barristers working in coffee shops as baristas and fewer engineering graduates working at electronic stores or insurance sales agents.
Time and again businesses complain about graduates who aren’t prepared to join their workforces which means the education they are receiving isn’t equipping them to succeed in landing the right job or any job at all.
Ninety-six percent of chief academic officers from colleges and universities say their institutions are preparing college graduates for work, but only 11 percent of business leaders say they’re getting what they need, the Gallup polling organization found in a survey for the Lumina Foundation.
US President Trump is calling for more vocational training which means larger investments in work-force development.
Vested Interests Pushing University Degrees
While we have media hacks and those with vested interest boasting about our educated workforce, it would be nice to have a survey done about just how useful these university degrees really are for a large number of ‘well-educated’ Canadians and new immigrants.
I have spoken with dozens of people holding great jobs about the role their degree played in their professional lives and what most have told me is that apart from opening doors and landing them good jobs, they hardly used much of what they learnt. One graduate literally had to hold open doors when he worked as a doorman until he found a real job. In short, a large number of students pursue degrees that have sent them into spiralling debt only to feel duped when they don’t have jobs that justify such a high investment of time and money.
High Demand For Those With Trade Degrees
The people who actually use their education are in the trades. Electricians, plumbers, roofers, motor mechanics and technicians. Many of these so-called blue collared Canadians are diploma holders, they’ve never set foot in a university and started working as an apprentice at an early age.
On the other hand, I’ve read stories about Canadian students like a 21-year old who got good grades in high school and completed a four-year degree at a university where he studied mechanical engineering, convinced he’d land a job right after university but found himself gloriously unemployed until he found something in retail that had nothing to do with his field of study.
The number of engineers in Ontario who are underemployed is 33 per cent, according to the OSPE (Ontario Society Of Professional Engineers)
The mechanical engineering graduate like so many others applied for 250 engineering jobs, landed just four interviews and zero job offer.
A 2014 Canadian Teachers’ Federation report found nearly a quarter of Canada’s youth are either unemployed, working less than they wanted or have given up looking for work entirely, the situation in 2018 is not so different despite the better job numbers.
But that doesn’t seem to deter the demand for higher education in Canada. There are more university students than ever before and a record number of international students. In 2015, there were more than two million students enrolled at Canadian universities and colleges, compared to almost 800,000 in 1980.
But little is being done or talked about the “skills mismatches” in the labor force, which will only worsen in years to come. According to the most recent figures, 9.3 million Americans are unemployed, but 4.8 million jobs stand empty because employers can’t find people to fill them. Here in Canada businesses are bringing in or prefer bringing in foreign high-skilled workers who can hit the ground running.
Apprenticeships And On The Job Training
With new technology transforming work across a range of sectors, more and more businesses are struggling to find workers with the skills to man new machines and manage new processes. All this is happening while thousands of Canadians and new immigrants who could with some training and additional education fill in jobs that are now going to foreign workers.
The problem in north America is that the trades have been relegated to an inferior status while we’ve elevated those with university degrees to a higher social status.
So for example an accountant who works on Bay Street making $70k annually will accorded more respect than a skilled electrician or a mechanic making $150K annually.
In Germany vocational schools and apprenticeship is huge, and happens in fields as diverse as advanced manufacturing, IT, banking, and hospitality. And in Europe, what’s often called “dual training” is a highly respected career path.
On the other hand a large number of north American college grads have learned the book stuff, but lack real-world experience, neither do they know how to work with other people, or subcontractors or do business.
End The Academic Arms Race
Just this week the Economist had a piece titled Time to end the academic arms race in which it talks about the law of diminishing returns when it comes to degrees. When every other person is armed with a degree, somehow it gets devalued. Employers end up demanding degrees for a jobs that really do not require one. To keep up with the rest of the students who are keen on finding employment after an expensive education, students are studying longer and arming themselves with double degrees and Master’s degrees.
Just as banks encourage their customers to pile up housing debt by convincing them it will pay off in the long run, so does the education industry that has convinced parents and students that the way to securing their future is to get into student debt. Sadly there is growing evidence that there are more than a few losers, students who are destined to suffer permanent financial damage as a result. Across the western world, a third of university entrants never end up graduating but are left with a legacy of student loans.
Number Of Unemployed Graduates Growing
Last year Statscan found more than 12 per cent of Canadians 15 to 24 are unemployed and more than a quarter are underemployed, which means they have degrees but end up in jobs that don’t require them.
The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show that the unemployment rate for 15-to-24-year-olds is almost twice that of the general population, which brings me back to the point I made at the beginning- news report about Canada being one of the best-educated countries in the world, all thanks to immigrants.
Policy advisors who have all this data about degrees and unemployment in Canada should be worried. Dealing with an army of unemployed and under-employed graduate and post-degree holders is a criminal waste of talent and education, especially educated immigrants from third world countries. Western nations are luring their best and brightest, bringing them here and wasting the education of a significant number of them.
Jobs Are In The Trades
I know for a fact that Canada has the distinction of having thousands of immigrants with university degrees driving trucks, working in warehouses, selling cars, homes and insurance, all the kinds of professions that certainly do not require university degrees.
This sobering reality should be taken into consideration by parents and students pursuing degrees many of which will be perfectly useless in the real world and ofcourse many immigrants who come with their prized possessions which includes a university degree.