Linda Franklin 
President and CEO, 
Colleges Ontario
Student at University of Calgary

More than ever, it is important that graduates entering the workforce have the qualifications and advanced skills to help them find meaningful work.

Many employers say they can’t find qualified people to fit positions that desperately need to be filled. The skills mismatch - the misalignment between the qualifications sought by employers and the skills held by people seeking work - will continue to be a challenge as new technology and innovations transform the workplace.

Ending underemployment

In fact, the Conference Board of Canada estimates the skills mismatch costs the province as much as $24.3 billion a year in lost economic activity. It also costs the province $3.7 billion in provincial tax revenues.

Young people have been hit particularly hard by the skills mismatch. Too many young people are unemployed or underemployed.College education will be more essential than ever in addressing this challenge. 

Record numbers of students are pursuing public college education to get the hands-on learning and career training needed for the knowledge economy. Furthermore, college graduates are successful. Even in this difficult economy, more than 83 percent of college graduates find work within six months of graduation.

Ontario must take steps to encourage students to pursue the colleges’ career-focused programs, including measures to help more students get a combination of both college and university education.

Career focused degrees

One of the most important steps the province can take is to elevate post-secondary education to international standards by expanding the range of career-focused degree programs at Ontario’s colleges.

Currently, Ontario colleges are allowed to offer degrees in their four-year programs; however, graduates of the three-year programs can only be awarded diplomas.

“More than ever, it is important that graduates entering the workforce have the qualifications and advanced skills to help them find meaningful work.”

In most OECD countries, graduates of three-year post-secondary programs earn degrees, including graduates of career-focused programs. 

Many of the three-year programs at the colleges are already aligned with the provincial standards for degree programs. They are pretty much degree programs in everything but name. 

Furthermore, independent research that was done in 2011 for the Ontario government confirmed that the four-year degree college programs that are already in place are successfully delivering degree-level training that is not available at universities.

Growing numbers of students and parents want access to degree programs with a career-specific focus, and many employers are also seeking people with degrees who have workplace-ready skills and competencies.

To produce a more qualified workforce in the years ahead, Ontario colleges will continue to offer a robust range of career-specific programs with a wide range of credentials to help students find long term success.

Linda Franklin