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Improving the linkages between university and work

Policy and practice recommendations
Future of work Labour mobility Skilled workforce Higher education reform Universities Higher education Canada

This paper, which concentrates on universities, offers as number of policies and practices to better align higher education with the world of work.

Increasingly, what one studies at university doesn’t predict the jobs one will occupy. In addition, students today will change jobs five to seven times, and the gig economy is growing, both of which reinforce the idea that an emphasis on skills makes sense. A number of universities in the U.S. are innovating and delivering programs in different ways than they always have. Examples include the University of Minnesota, the Michener Institute of Education and Western Governors University, the latter of which operates online and targets programs in areas of labour-market shortages. Canada lags behind the U.S. in developing competency-based education frameworks, which clearly articulate and assess outcomes, allow students to learn at their own pace and give graduates a credential that describes the competencies they’ve mastered.

One thing slowing down innovation in Canadian universities is government regulation, which covers everything from funding to approvals of which institutions can operate where and which programs a university can offer and which credentials it can grant. There are signs this is improving, however, and this should continue.

Universities should also target the equity of access challenge. Students from low-income or families, Indigenous learners and those from other cultural or ethnic groups have lower post-secondary school enrolment. There’s a need for new programs to address the financial, social and cultural factors that lead these individuals to eschew more schooling.

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