Canada’s colleges and institutes have a distinct focus on providing students with market-ready skills – skills that are prioritized by employers and that will allow graduates to transition smoothly from study to work.
This focus requires a consistent effort in research, program renewal, and employer engagement. In practice, this means that Canadian institutions undertake wide-ranging consultations with employers, that employers have a voice in the development of curriculum, that programs emphasize work integrated learning, and that colleges and institutes are keen consumers and analysts of labour market data.
This work is exemplified through an innovative and unique consultative model within Canada’s colleges and institutes: the Program Advisory Committee. These committees are established for each program or program area, are composed of industry or sector leaders from the corresponding professional field, and report directly to the college executive.
The role of the Program Advisory Committee is to ensure that college and institute programs remain current and highly relevant to employers. Committee members identify key trends in their respective fields, and advise on how any such changing requirements can best be reflected in existing or new college programs. Through this work, and through ongoing input in terms industry resources, placements, and graduate employment opportunities, the Program Advisory Committee is an essential link between the institution and industry.
The benefits of such links – and of this clear focus on employability – are only too clear. Globally, there is ample research that highlights the significant gaps between the job readiness of post-secondary graduates and the expectations and requirements of employers. These gaps reflect in high rates of graduate unemployment in many countries, lower rates of productivity and innovation, and increased spending on supplemental training on the part of employers. In sharp contrast to those patterns, 90% of graduates from Canada’s colleges and institutes find employment in their chosen field.
In an international context, Canada’s colleges and institutes support skills development through the delivery of skills-based education programs, by helping to build capacity in local education systems, and by providing employment-based training for institutional partners and employers abroad.
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