Are we job ready?

Illustration by Ed Appleby
Illustration by Ed Appleby

Most university and college graduates are unemployable

By Chitwan Khosla, Features Editor

“Education in the professions should prepare students for the action.” – Charles Gragg 

There is a huge gap between academic education and employment that needs to be bridged by the universities and colleges imparting higher education. For instance, management courses should teach according to the demands of the corporate world, which change from time to time.

A report from Statistics Canada shows that the unemployment rate in Canada dropped to 6.5 per cent, but there is no mention of the unemployable rate. Before discussing the matter ahead, I would like to highlight the fact that unemployed and unemployable are two different terms. Unemployables are individuals who are not fit for the job they have specialized in or have studied for. They can’t be employed as accountants even if they are graduates in accounting management. The Globe and Mail reports that even though “Canada has the highest rates of university and college attendance, it ranks second-last in producing graduates able to find ‘high skill level’ employment, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.” This is because of lack of confidence, ability to work under pressure, and knowledge of appropriate communications skills.

Though students are getting better with computer and technical skills, they remain largely unemployable because they are often not good at being punctual and responsible as well as handling unexpected situations. The educational institutions’ emphasis is on getting students to pass exams and complete assignments. But there are no answer keys to assignments in the real world. Most employers have revealed that they are ready to train the right candidates provided they have strong time management skills, literacy and numeracy skills, and high willingness to learn.

CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal said, “We need to make sure what universities are producing is more relevant to tomorrow’s labour markets. If it means reducing subsides for occupations that are not relevant, so be it.” The universities and colleges must align their curriculum with the employers‘ expectations if they don’t want the economy of the country. Students with degrees in arts and sciences have the highest rate of unemployment in Canada. The current workforce has many immigrant workers who are better at the skills that employers look for and ultimately leave the Canadian graduates with low-skill jobs.

The three E’s—Employability, Experience, and Education—are directly related to each other. Experience comes with time but education and employability definitely should be parallel in our young students’ careers. Students are paying fees, taking loans, and blowing all their savings. They deserve to be employed in the field they have chosen as their dream career.

In a highly versatile economy like Canada, education has a new buzzword: concept-based learning. This needs to change to more innovative learning. A more business-tailored learning style involves more volunteer work, more training, and better social-skill-learning opportunities. The global competition has created a more complex situation where companies are hiring international workers. Canadian educational institutions should also produce human resources that can boost the economy.

A high-quality education, with concentration on the all-round development of students and not just focussing on academic excellence, is what universities and colleges need to bring to their curriculums. In sum, education needs to be raised to higher levels to bring the students to par with employers’ expectations.