CIBC report warns of education/skills gap unless post-secondary system changes

A CIBC economics report warns that Canada’s post-secondary institutions need to change their ways to begin producing enough graduates with the right skills to drive future economic growth.

Authors Benjamin Tal and Royce Mendes say a new CIBC online poll shows students are becoming more pragmatic in choosing careers where their skills will be needed.

The survey shows there has been about a 30 per cent rise in university enrolments in high-paying careers such as business and the so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) in the decade leading up to 2015.

But it adds those programs have seen fee inflation that’s almost double the pace of other courses, leaving students with far greater levels of debt as they enter the workforce.

The CIBC study also suggests that Canada’s post-secondary system isn’t flexible enough and forces students to choose between university and college.

It points out that while Ontario offers 45 joint college/university programs, only eight per cent of Canadian students are enrolled in such a dual system.

“The cost of that mismatch (between education availability and need) is already visible in both disappointing youth employment conditions and the rising share of Canadians earning below average incomes,” the report concludes.

“Those vulnerabilities will be fully exposed in the next economic downturn. The time to act is now.”

CIBC bases its study on an online poll conducted between July 27 and Aug. 2 among 1,506 full- or part-time students in Canada.

The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

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