Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Aging population, emerging knowledge economy: facing the challenge

Over the last year, I've used the President’s Blog to keep everyone informed, and to stimulate dialogue, as we worked together to create our new strategic plan [PDF]. The release of the plan is an important milestone for the College - it responds to important changes in society, while remaining true to our mission. But now the real task is implementation.

A centerpiece of the plan, the idea of Learner Pathways, is about pathways into, within and out of Douglas College. A recent report [PDF] by Rick Miner is food for thought in this realm. Miner, president emeritus of Seneca College, told ACCC conference attendees in Niagara Falls this spring that we face a serious problem (or crisis, really): "a future with large numbers of unskilled workers looking for jobs that require skills they do not posses, and a large number of jobs that will go unfilled.”

The problem, Miner argues, is a consequence of the “intersection of two mega-trends: an aging population and an emerging knowledge economy.” Without effective action, we face simultaneously high unemployment and a skills shortage.

He calls for the post-secondary education sector to take up the challenge of increasing both the skills of the aging labour force and increasing the post-secondary participation rates of Canadians. "We [in Ontario] have to accept attainment of post-secondary education or training as the expectation for all but a small minority," he said. Of course, the same goes for all Canadians.

So, how do we increase post-secondary participation rates? According to one Statistics Canada report, four out of every five young people tracked over a six-year period had undertaken some form of post-secondary education by the time they reached their mid-twenties. Is the other side of the problem attrition (or persistence) given an approximate 15% overall "dropout" rate?

Let me know what you think and how you understand this question from a Douglas College perspective. And please continue to participate in the President's blog on this (or any other) topic.  --Scott

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