This letter to the editor was written in response to an op-ed published in The Province on May 6, 2014. The newspaper published this letter on May 9, 2014. The same op-ed and letter also appeared in The Record and The Guelph Mercury (May 9, 10 and 13, respectively).
By Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
Gwyn Morgan’s op-ed on Wednesday (Public investment in skills training pays big returns, ) is calling for something that is already happening: growth in the number of people pursuing skilled trades in Canada. Between 2000 and 2011, enrolment in apprenticeships more than doubled – more than twice the growth of university enrolment. Regrettably, according to Statistics Canada, completion rates for apprentices hover around 50 per cent. At the same time, university enrolment in Canada fell to 15th in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Morgan also suggests that Canada emulate Germany’s system. But Canada already has 4.7 times more people in electrical apprenticeships and, on a per-capita basis, almost twice as many in mechanical trades than Germany. And apprentices in Germany cover a much wider array of occupations than in Canada; the largest numbers of apprentices in Germany are in fields such as retail sales, clerical workers and medical assistants.
Canada needs tradespeople, but also more university grads. Even in resource-rich Alberta, 56 per cent of net new jobs since 2008 have been university graduates, compared with 31 per cent for college grads and 18 per cent for trades.
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