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We need university grads

December 7, 2012

This letter to the editor was published in the Ottawa Citizen, December 7, 2012.

Paul Davidson
President and CEO, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Re: McGuinty delivered on education, December 3.

L. Ian MacDonald’s opinion piece praises the outgoing Ontario premier for his achievements in education. It is unfortunate, however, that MacDonald digresses into misinformation about job prospects for today’s university graduates, particularly in comparison with demand for skilled trades.

From 1990 to 2011 the number of jobs filled by university graduates in Canada more than doubled to 4.5 million from 1.9 million, while the growth in jobs in the skilled trades grew by only a third. Since 2000, job growth for university graduates has well outpaced that for all other levels of education. Even in booming Alberta, jobs filled by university graduates over the past decade exceed those filled by people with trade certificates by a factor of four to one.

Canada’s universities are doing a very good job of preparing graduates for rewarding careers. More than 50 percent of undergraduates have a co-op or internship experience in the workforce. But there is much more to a university experience than job preparation. Universities develop global citizens. They produce lifelong learners; young people who think critically, solve problems and develop new knowledge. Graduates are adaptable to the changes in our labour market.

Canada needs more university graduates. The combination of a huge demographic shift and an increasingly competitive global economy means we need to mobilize all of our resources – including more graduates at all levels of post-secondary education – to build prosperity and secure a high quality of life for the future.