The labour shortage continues to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks in Ontario’s plan to promote an economic recovery.
A recent survey by the Harris Poll illustrates the severity of the problem. Eighty-four per cent of Canadian employers said they expect to face problems hiring this year, with nearly one-third saying they currently have positions they can’t fill.
They said one of the reasons is the skills gap and that many people seeking work are lacking the necessary hard and soft skills.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. As innovations like digitalization and AI revolutionize our society, people entering the workforce need more sophisticated levels of expertise and competencies.
Much of that expertise can be acquired through the specialized, career-focused degree programs at Ontario’s colleges.
Unfortunately, there are limits on the career-specific degree programs currently available at Ontario’s colleges.
Most of our programs are diploma programs. Colleges are only allowed to offer degrees in our four-year programs, even though many of our three-year diploma programs align with Ontario’s requirements for post-secondary degrees.
These restrictions can sometimes create roadblocks in people’s career ambitions.
It’s an unfair situation that needs to change. Every student who meets Ontario’s standards for a post-secondary degree should be awarded a degree upon graduation.
Fortunately, there is good reason to believe the situation will improve.
In its red tape bill tabled last week, the Ontario government made a strong commitment to examine ways to expand post-secondary credentials.
Specifically, the government is looking at measures to allow colleges to offer degrees in some of the three-year programs, expand the range of four-year degree programs and to potentially create master’s degree programs in specialized areas.
These changes would make graduates more attractive to a wider range of employers. In fact, major employers have embraced our recommendations to expand the degree programs at colleges.
Here is a sample of the strong endorsements from employers.
- “Stated plainly, degree holders enjoy more opportunities in our global manufacturing world,” said Guido Benvenuto, the vice president of engineering at Flex-N-Gate, a supplier to the global automotive sector. “I very much hope that your success is realized quickly.”
- “A three-year degree has tremendous relevance to the mining industry and provides an education resource directly in the community that all but guarantees quality, meaningful employment,” said Mark Selby, the chair and CEO of Canada Nickel Company Inc.
- “We strongly support your initiative to acquire more autonomy to develop new programs, including at a degree level, to respond to the evolving skills needs of the auto industry in the Windsor-Essex region,” said Dino Chiodo, the director of auto at Unifor.
Ensuring Ontario has a workforce with the expertise to succeed is essential to economic growth. Expanding the career-focused degree programs at colleges will equip more students with the expertise and qualifications that are pivotal to Ontario’s recovery.