The future of education and jobs were front and centre at the Belleville Chamber of Commerce breakfast Wednesday morning.
Prince Edward Hastings MPP Todd Smith said he is constantly hearing from concerned parents about their children’s chosen field of study and how many part-time jobs their kids are working due to student debt. He said parents are connecting the state of the economy to the state of Ontario’s education system. He pointed to recent statistics gathered by Canada 2020 concluding the youth unemployment rate is experiencing a 30-year drought at the same time when the share of the population comprised of those under 25 has dropped from 19 percent to 13 percent over the same time period.
“There are fewer kids with less opportunity,” he said. “27 percent of Canadian workers are deemed to have skills or qualifications that exceed what is necessary for their job. The share of part-time workers among university graduates has increased over the last 20 years by 3.5 percent. Fourteen percent of those not in school are employed solely on a part-time basis, representing a record for the age group. Every month, when we see new job figures, we see the same trends. Last month was a perfect example. The number of full-time positions was down, the number of part-time positions was up and the decline in the unemployment rate was driven primarily by young people leaving the job market. Wage growth is at 0.2 percent. That’s why parents are connecting education and employment.”
Quoting Deputy Chief Economist for CIBC, Benjamin Tal, Smith said with the exception of commerce, in the last 10 years, Canada has not seen a meaningful influx of students into degrees with more advantageous earnings outcomes.
Despite the lack of full-time jobs Smith said the Quinte region is poised to be on the leading edge when it comes to the next generation of jobs and has the potential for another great Ontario hub of innovation and production thanks to groups like the Quinte Economic Development Commission, the Prince Edward Innovation Centre and Quintevation.
Loyalist College President Dr. Ann-Marie Vaughan agreed with MPP Smith that providing education for jobs of the future is key.
She said she would like to see more enrolment in engineering.
She said there is a lot of planning and consulting with economic and social development to make sure they have it right and their programs are aligned to do that.