University or College, which is a better investment?

In Canada, choosing between college or university is one of the toughest decisions facing soon-to-be graduated high school students. Although most high school students will be university bound, it may not be the best decision for their future professional careers. In fact, more students are being encouraged to pursue college-level studies due to the growing number of job opportunities expected to become available for college graduates in the coming years.

“Folks can make a lot more (money) by learning a (skilled) trade than they might with an art history degree, and this is true for students across North America,” stated President Barack Obama in January 2014 during a public address.

The Concerning Reality for University Graduates

According to the latest survey released by Statistics Canada, approximately 31 percent of Canadian employers believe that university is not preparing students for the “real world.” More concerning is the fact that over 50 percent of these survey participants reported having a difficult time finding qualified candidates for the jobs available within their organizations. This challenging task is the result of employers seeking candidates with job-specific skills, such as problem-solving, written and oral communications, and analytical skills, which employers do not believe university graduates possess.

Survey participants also discussed their reasons for employing college graduates over university-educated candidates. In particular, the university system in Canada was described as being “too accommodating” for students who wished to lazily get through their studies. In addition, survey participants reported believing university students were no longer investing in their studies for the purpose of obtaining employment afterwards. Instead, it was reported that employers believe more university students were completing their studies in order to satisfy the desires of their parents. Unfortunately, these negative opinions have significantly lowered the chances for university graduates to obtain jobs in their fields. More importantly, these educated job seekers will continue to be limited in regard to employment options, which means more university graduates will end up working in low-paying jobs unrelated to their fields of study.

The Growing Optimism for College Graduates

The results of the same survey have indicated a drastically different outlook for college graduates and college-bound high school students. In specific, more college graduates have found jobs in their fields or a related field after completing their studies than university graduates in Canada. This can be attributed to the fact that college graduates are able to learn the tangible skills needed to obtain field-specific job opportunities through skilled trades programs. More importantly, employers are seeking candidates who have acquired practical skills and hands-on experience through internship programs and work experience.

Currently, the skilled trades industry is seeing a steady growth in the job market as approximately 40 percent of new jobs will be created in the skilled trades and technology industries. Adding to this optimistic outlook is the estimated one million skilled trades jobs that will need to be filled over the next 15 years. As can be seen, the job market in the skilled trades industry is not only predictable, but it can also be considered “safe” for individuals who are concerned about obtaining employment after completing their post-secondary studies. Regardless of how much job growth occurs in the technology industry, the outlook for the future of the skilled trades industry is positive as skilled trades workers will always be needed for their practical skills and knowledge.