Addressing youth unemployment and underemployment must be a top priority at the Ontario government’s spring session that starts today, said George Burton, President of Canadore College.
“Ontario can be doing more to help young people find meaningful careers,” said Burton.
“The province needs to adopt new measures to strengthen career-focused education and training, including reforms to encourage more people pursue college education.”
Young people have been hit particularly hard in the current economy. More than 16 per cent of young people in Ontario are unemployed, while many others are working in jobs that don’t utilize their talents and competencies.
The provincial government did take steps last year to address the issue, including the launch of the Ontario Youth Employment Fund to support work placements for young people.
The priority now is to implement broader policy measures that better align higher education and training with the needs of the job market.
The unemployment and underemployment challenges go well beyond a shortage of jobs. Much of the problem is due to the skills mismatch and the fact that too people don’t have the qualifications and advanced skills to fill the positions that are available.
The skills mismatch continues to be a huge problem for Ontario’s overall economy.
The Conference Board of Canada estimates that skills gaps cost Ontario as much as $24.3 billion a year in lost economic opportunity.
The province also loses $3.7 billion annually in potential tax revenues.
Ontario must help more people get access to postsecondary education, and ensure that greater numbers of higher education students get career-specific learning and training.
More young people, from high school graduates to university students, need to study at college as part of their learning.
The provincial measures to transform postsecondary education should include expanding the range of degree programs in career-specific areas.
This would include elevating Ontario’s postsecondary system to international standards by allowing colleges to offer three-year degree programs.
The province must also reform apprenticeship training, and continue to strengthen its system for transferring completed postsecondary credits so that greater numbers of students can acquire a combination of both college and university education.
“More people must acquire the skills and competencies to help them achieve long-term success,” said Burton. “Youth joblessness must be the focal point for our political leaders.”