Fix education so we don’t have people without jobs, conference told

Source: MetroNews

Canada must fix its educational system to ensure that a looming demographics shift doesn’t leave result in a “people without jobs and jobs without people” scenario, experts warn.

“The demographic time bomb that’s ticking is getting louder and louder,” said John Manley, president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, which hosted a conference on the issue in Toronto on Monday.

“There’s a mismatch between the training and education that’s being offered, and the jobs that are being created.”

The influence of the postwar baby boom generation has long been known, but the potential impact is staggering. According to Rick Miner, former Seneca College president, by 2036 those under the age of 15 and over the age of 65 will represent 65 per cent of the Canadian population, compared with 44 per cent in 2010.

“That means nearly two-thirds of the population will be over 65 or under 15, compared to the population working full-time. That’s frightening,” Miner said.

These demographic changes can be mitigated by getting more people into the workforce who have been traditionally under-represented including immigrants, aboriginals, women, those with disabilities, those in their early 20s and older workers.

Miner also believes there also needs to be a revamp of post-secondary education, where institutions must work together.

He noted high school students sometimes do an extra year to get into a particular university program. And even after university, some graduates can’t find work so they return to do a community college program — meaning it can be as many as six or seven years of schooling, post-high school.

Others at the conference also cautioned that preparing students for the jobs of tomorrow is difficult, especially given that 25 per cent of today’s jobs didn’t exist 30 years ago.

Linda Hasenfratz, chief executive officer of auto parts company Linamar Corp., added that young people are often encouraged to study something they love, with promises they’ll find a job in the end.

“It doesn’t always work out that way,” Hasenfratz said, adding sometimes they discover they studied what they love, but they can’t get a job that gives them the level of income they want.

She believes more training needs to be done in secondary school, where students can be exposed to skills used by carpenters and machinists as a building block for learning.

They might then choose a skilled-trades apprenticeship or community college to become an engineering technologist, or university to become an architect, based on initial exposure to carpentry, she said.

Others also warned that job demands can fluctuate dramatically so governments and educational institutions must react carefully to deal with shortages. For example, teachers were desperately needed, so more teacher training spots were added. But now universities continue to graduate new teachers even though there are few job openings.

CAW economist Jim Stanford added that the top three jobs of the future are truck driver, retail clerk and health care assistant.

“We should be realistic about where the jobs are,” he said, adding if society needs truck drivers, those jobs need to be valued with appropriate wages and working conditions.

“There is a cultural bias against blue-collar occupations against the idealized white-collar occupations,” he added.