The Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers (CACEE) welcomes the release by the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities of the report “Focus on Outcomes, Centre on Students.” We endorse the call for undergraduate career readiness / employability learning outcomes contained in the Report, and we are encouraged to see that the authors have acknowledged the benefits of experiential learning.
CACEE is a national not for profit association that links employers and post-secondary career educators. Our members are committed to improving the school to work transition of Canadian students, enabling graduates to find their way into rewarding careers and aiding employers to find the skilled employees they need. In 2013 we issued a Call for Action that addressed elements that were also addressed in the MTCU report. We called for our systems of higher education to acknowledge the career imperative that drives the majority of students, and to take steps to help them to be more successful in making the transition to the workforce. We believe that bringing students to understand that their education includes the acquisition of higher order cognitive skills will enable them to better express their competencies when they seek employment. These cognitive skills include problem solving, communication, and inter-personal relations – all highly valued by employers.
To be clear, we believe that graduates already possess these skills. What they lack is the vocabulary to describe them to employers. Our colleges and universities provide excellent teaching of world class curriculum, but a changing world now requires that we add one more learning element – an understanding of how graduates may apply what they have learned, and how they have learned it, in a competitive global labour market. The “Focus on Outcomes, Centre on Students” report addresses that need:
“Measuring and assessing undergraduate learning outcomes has the potential to add considerable value to the sector, helping students to understand what they have learned, governments to understand what skills are being generated, and universities to drive continuous improvement.”
Youth un/underemployment is a persistent challenge, one felt most acutely among at-risk populations. Canada’s youth are twice as likely to be unemployed when compared with the general population. Underemployment, or working in a job for which you are overqualified, is an equal challenge. Meanwhile, we hear regularly from employers and their advocates that they cannot find enough applicants with the skills to meet their needs, leading to rewarding opportunities going vacant.High youth unemployment at a time of skills shortages damages our economy, and diminishes the prospects of the young people affected.
We can, and should do better. With the “Focus on Outcomes, Centre on Students” Report, the Ontario Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities is showing the way to doing better. We look forward to working with MTCU and other stakeholders on this initiative to reduce the rates of youth un/underemployment in Ontario and across the country.
Paul D. Smith