All that employers want from Canadian Higher Education

All that employers want from Canadian Higher Education

Posted on 27 Jun 2014 Views ( 874 )

When Dale Camuyong’s, a student of University of Manitoba business stood as his school’s best co-op student of 2013, the qualities that so impressed his employer, New Flyer Industries, who was a bus manufacturing company are strikingly diverse set of skills and qualities: not just human resources knowledge but sense of humor, professionalism, dedication, teamwork, initiative, and leadership.

What employers are looking for is not just a high level of specialized skills, but also ‘soft skills’ which ensemble of social qualities and are needed to do the jobs in today’s labor market.

Most stakeholders in industry and higher education agree that a core part of the higher education institutes’ mission consists in shaping graduates suited to the needs of today’s labor market. And all parties agree that getting a good match between employers’ needs and workers’ fit with those needs has huge economic implications.

The consistent message from employers is that they’re looking for people who fit today’s collaborative workplaces, which call for leadership, team skills, and interaction. As Canadian companies are becoming more and more global in their activities, their need for workers capable of doing business in cross functional teams and also across boundaries has also increased a lot that most employers prefer to hire candidates who are fit and then train for specialized skills rather than the other way around.

Canadian universities, colleges and trade schools are aware of the fact that they’re being called on by employers to teach more about skills in team dynamics, cultural awareness, and collaboration. Universities already do this well, and are preparing to do even more in years ahead. Institutions are equally aware that it is their duty to educate students fosters adaptability in face of changing trend and labor markets toward more career changes during their work paths. As economist Todd Hirsh, Chief Economist with ATB Financial, noted in this newspaper last month, “What postsecondary education needs to do—be it through a liberal arts degree or a polytechnic program—is prepare the students not for a job, but for a lifetime of morphing careers.”

In many aspects, universities are already getting a lot of this right. According to a survey by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, most large employers in Canada are either satisfied or extremely satisfied with the qualified candidates who are going to join their workforce. Now almost half of all undergraduates are already taking part in co-ops and internships.

Yet much remains to be done in producing higher education graduates in the face of today’s competitive market. It’s not a matter of promoting one kind of education;

As their contribution, policy makers could embrace a broader definition of the skills rather than narrow definition of the skills just like technical know-how that higher education should convey. This broader definition of the skills consists of cross-cultural competencies and multi-dimensional thinking. They should work with post secondary education and partners in business and in order to collect and investigate better labor market data. Finally, they should come up with the investments in internships that provide Canadians a global experience.

We don’t know the future needs of the labor market, but we do know that fit and adoptability will be essential. If policy makers, higher education institutions, and industry -makers work more closely together to realize those goals, we’ll be doing right not only by employers, workers, and students, but also by Canada’s economic prosperity.