As part of the Ontario Liberals’ 2011 Platform and the provincial Throne Speech, Dalton McGuinty has promised to cut the average tuition by 30%, and create 200,000 more spaces in postsecondary institutions - in the belief that training more highly skilled individuals will create more jobs.
Is ensuring that everyone has a good education a good thing? Yes, since it provides equal opportunity for everyone who wants to compete in the labour market. Is increasing access to the same type of education a good thing? Arguably no, and here is why.
Increasing the supply of university-trained individuals will not create job demand, but it will create more students without jobs. University students are trained for particular tasks: research, analysis, communications skills, lab work, or refining artistic expression. They are rarely exposed to professional tools such as networking, situational responsiveness, entrepreneurship, etcetera – a significant failure on the part of universities and their ivory tower academics. The labour market does not need more academics entering the labour force. It needs down-to-earth, hands-on and professionally experienced individuals who have more than a degree to prove it.
Universities have evolved to the status of corporations, marketing their reputations so that students will drop $10,000-$15,000 a year at their institutions. As a result, the quality of university education has suffered, as students with lower grades are now being accepted simply because we believe that more of this type of education is better, and these kids have the cash to spend. Now a bachelor’s degree is virtually worthless when it comes to getting higher paying jobs and climbing the promotional ladder.
If McGuinty really wants to step up job creation, he needs to make jobs skills retraining easier, and open up access to other types of educational institutions and professional development sectors, rather than give me an OSAP break that will only keep me and other graduate students in school longer. A better approach would have been to increase the number of academic scholarships for innovative sectors like the medical sciences, engineering and business, to incentivize students to follow job demand without penalizing those who choose a different path. Tim Hudak’s promise to add 200,000 more placements to the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program would have been another great way to create jobs in sectors where tradespeople are in short supply.
However, the one thing that Ontarians should lose sleep over is the 30% tuition reduction. Where is the money going to come from? From your pockets, dear inhabitants of Ontario.
Humans are extremely resourceful, adaptable and capable of weathering any labour market slump. Teaching students to tap into hidden job markets, setting up networking events, and spreading awareness of new job sectors are the real life tools that are simply not part of any current government or university mandate. At the end of the day, all the brilliant, well-trained university graduates in the world stand not a chance against the wheels of luck, and tuition reductions only put a heavier price tag on succeeding in a highly competitive job market.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of The Prince Arthur Herald.
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