When I graduated in the summer of 2009, a newspaper title said, “This is the worst year in decades to graduate from university.” Three years forward, although the darkest of the recession days seem behind us, university grads are still having a hard time finding meaningful jobs that would make their degree worthwhile.
According to the National Post, the rate of youth unemployment in 2011 was 14%, twice as high as the national rate. Worse, tuition fees aside, grads find themselves competing against a significantly higher number of degree holders as universities produce more graduates than ever before. Eventually, you start wondering how wise of an investment the university education was. For some students, the solution was to stay in school for a Master’s degree, hoping the situation would improve when they finished. However, where’s the guarantee you won’t be faced with the same bleak prospects when you graduate with your Master’s, with even more debts to pay off?
A practical and much cheaper solution might be going to college to get a certificate that builds up upon your university degree. Maclean’s survey of Ontario Colleges Performance Rates shows very attractive numbers for 2007-2008 graduates, with an average employment rate of 88.9%.
So how common is it to see university grads enrolling in college programs nowadays? According to Shirin Khosravaneh, the coordinator of Editing Program at George Brown, it’s becoming very common not only for undergrads, but for graduate students as well. She says, “Even Master’s students come to college because they want to get some hands-on experience leading to employment. Some students use this training to supplement their degrees, others take different programs from what they studied to make a transition to a more practical career.”
Different colleges have various ways of preparing students for employment. Tene Barber, the Dean of Continuing Education at Vancouver Community College (VCC), explains, “Some programs at VCC offer practicum and internships, so there’s a direct connection (with the labour market ). We have training programs, for example our ACE program in the Essential Skills Centre actually coach students that are coming up to graduate how to research different job markets and opportunities so they are more prepared upon graduation.”
“You’ll also find that every program at VCC has a strong, what I would call, ‘transition to employment’ piece, teaching you such things as: how to prepare an adequate résumé, how to put your best self forward, and how to best describe your skills. We also prepare students to meet the expectation of a workplace, in terms of hard and soft skills.”
Even though it could be frustrating to go back to school once again, after having spent so much time and effort on your degree, it doesn’t have to be. Just ask Mona Besharati, one of the students in the Editing Program at George Brown College:
“It feels good. I get to learn about something I am interested in, while also advancing my skills. I'm at a point in my life where I have the resources to do this, and I realize this isn't always the case for everyone. So I’m happy about and thankful for my current situation. Knowing I'd be walking out of university with a BA honours degree, I also knew that going back to school was always a serious possibility for me. My program — a combined degree in Communication Studies & Multimedia — was very theoretical and broad. Going back to school lets me hone in on my genuine interests and skills.”
How is continuing education in college different form university studies? Says Mona, “I felt a lot more pressure in university, and what I was studying was significantly theoretical based. In college (specifically a cont. ed. program), the classes are much smaller in size, and focused in topic. Also, the material covered has a much more ‘hands on’ approach. In comparison to university, I am learning more practical skills in college.”