Are Canadian universities still relevant to today's graduates? Are they serving the changing needs of labour markets? According to University of Ottawa President Allan Rock, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, universities are as focussed as ever on ensuring that they remain on the cutting edge.
Mr. Rock challenged the myth of the irrelevance of a university education in a speech delivered today to members of the Canadian Club of Ottawa.
Recent articles in the popular press have stated that universities are out of touch with our economic reality and unresponsive to labour market needs, said Allan Rock. I think this is wrong. In fact, the evidence doesn't support this drumbeat of criticism about undergraduate programs.
Numbers in hand, Mr. Rock first addressed the skills mismatch issue. While there is an undeniable shortage of qualified people to fill open jobs in the skilled trades, a shortage which community colleges are well-positioned to fill, there continues to be a strong demand for university graduates and they are faring well in the job market.
In fact, the latest employment survey commissioned by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities revealed high rates of university graduate employment with almost 88 per cent of graduates having a job within six months of graduation and more than 82 per cent working in degree-related positions within two years of completing university. A recent CICB World Markets report identified 25 professions that have persistently experienced employment shortages and almost all of them require a university degree.
Mr. Rock also brought forward evidence of how Canadian universities are constantly adapting to a complex world in rapidly changing times.
The days of the ivory tower are long-since past, as universities increasingly work with community partners to bring programs and courses alive in practical settings said Allan Rock in reference to the growingemphasis across the country on experiential learning through co-op placements, course-related volunteer work, internships, mentoring and undergraduate research programs.
Finally, Allan Rock noted the role that higher education plays in driving innovation and economic development, as well as in enriching the lives of citizens and society as a whole.
With each of our students, in every faculty and department, our concern is not so much with the work that they will do, as it is with the person that they will become. There are many challenges ahead. We seek to equip our students with the skills they need to get a job, but also the capacity, inspiration and experience to make a difference in their community, in their country and in the world concluded Allan Rock.
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