Canada needs to enrol more students in STEM programs and fewer in business and law, OECD report says
The world needs more high tech and engineering graduates, yet countries like Canada are continuing to pump out more college and university graduates in less-employable programs like business, law and administration, according to a new international report.
The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) annual Education at a Glance report covers trends across 30-plus countries around the globe, this year focusing on enrolment issues in upper secondary (high school) and post-secondary education. The report concludes that while graduates from the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics are the most employable, most OECD countries continue to produce much higher numbers of students in business, law and administration, which together make up 23 per cent of post-secondary-educated adults in these countries.
Canada is no exception, with 29 per cent of its college and university students graduating from business and law and only 11 per cent from engineering and trades like manufacturing and construction.
“STEM‐related fields benefit from higher employment rates, reflecting the demands of an increasingly innovation‐driven society,” reads the report.
Yet, a closer look reveals that all STEM programs are not alike when it comes to employment, as graduates from the natural sciences, mathematics and statistics fields in fact have similar employment success as those coming from the arts and humanities.
“Information and communication technologies (ICT) graduates can expect an employment rate that is 7 percentage points higher than those graduating from arts and humanities, or from social sciences, journalism and information,” reads the report.
Deb Matthews, Ontario’s Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, says that the report shows that education remains a worthwhile investment for the province.
“We know there is more to be done to prepare students with the skills they need for a changing economy, and that work must be done in collaboration with post-secondary institutions,” says Matthews to the Toronto Star. “We are working together with colleges and universities … to set the foundation for broader post-secondary education system transformation, including in areas like experiential learning, teaching quality and economic development.”
Canada remains on top in terms of having a high number of adults with post-secondary education, as 21 per cent of Canadians aged 25 to 64 hold a bachelor’s degree compared to an OECD average of 16 per cent (Canada came in second only to South Korea).
At the same time, Canada is a laggard when it comes to producing graduates with advanced degrees, with only ten per cent of adults holding either a master’s or doctoral degree compared to the OECD average of 13 per cent.
Even as Canada produces more college and university graduates, the report also found that the earnings advantage for Canadians possessing post-secondary degrees is less than the OECD average. Full-time, full-year workers aged 25 to 64 with post-secondary education earn 41 per cent more than workers with only a high school education. That’s compared to an OECD average of 56 per cent more.