College, university should make collaborative education

by | Apr 17, 2015 | Opinion

Katherine George

Life Editor


As a student in a post-graduate program at Humber, I have experienced both a college and university education. I chose to return to school after completing four years in a university program because I felt like I had graduated without the adequate skillset to enter the workforce. Now I believe the only way to attain the valuable life lessons that come from a university learning experience and the specified training of a college program is to combine the two forms of education in a college and university collaborated degree.

A recent report conducted by Ken Coates, a professor at the School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan, said university enrolment across Canada should decrease by 30 per cent while there should be more focus on colleges and polytechnic schools. Coates said a decrease in university enrolment would improve the quality of education. The study, commissioned by the Canadian Council for Chief Executives, shows imbalances in the Canadian education system with an influx of generic ill-trained university qualifications and lack of real-wage skilled workers.

A university education is valuable because it teaches students the basics of what is required in not only a career-oriented job, but also in becoming an adult. A university education builds on skills that were taught throughout high school. It focuses on developing the ability to understand complex theoretical concepts while perfecting reading and writing skills.

In addition, universities are usually broader institutions with a higher enrolment of international students. Students who enroll in a university program are more likely to move away from home for the first time than students enrolled at a community college. Leaving their parents’ nest behind, university students are forced into learning the responsibility of living on their own. These are basic skills that build young adults into being successful students in a post-secondary education.

However, Canada’s workforce today requires specification within education. The hands-on training programs offered at colleges gives students the ability to narrow down their interests and qualifications and become experts in a specified field, increasing thier ability to find a job.

The influx of generically ill-trained university graduates comes from an unrealistic perception of a university education. Families have pushed children away from blue-collar positions, despite the now higher level of technological work required for jobs in the skilled trades. Individuals between the ages of 17 and 19 are forced to decide which post-secondary institution or other training program they want to go to, leaving the development of the Canadian workforce in their hands. Young adults have an unrealistic perception of what the workforce requires because their experience has been about being taught to go to university and study at an academic level of learning.

Over the past five years, across Canada the number of university graduates enrolled in college programs has increased more than 40 per cent. Many of the university-trained individuals are matured adults who have acquired more education with more time to grow up. This puts young college-only educated students at a disadvantage competing with individuals with more life and educational experience.

There is growing concern about the transition from school to work. Employers often emphasize that students graduating from university programs have been crafted to a high academic form of learning and have not acquired any soft skills. Soft skills are interpersonal skills that involve communication, friendliness and an individual’s ability to interact with others. These skills are developed in most college programs where group work is encouraged, while many university programs focus on individual success.

There will always be a need for both a university and college education depending on an individual’s route to career success. But in an increasingly technological world, there should be more collaboration between university and college programs to offer students the academic learning experience of a university education while receiving the specified training of a college program. The future of Canada’s workforce is dependent on it.