Currently, 42% of Canadians aged 20-29 are unemployed or underemployed in jobs not requiring degrees – and most still living at home. 32% of College graduates are making $25,000 or less. 63% of College graduates say they still need more training to find the kind of employment they are seeking. The job market has changed dramatically in the digital economy, and our educational decisions have not kept pace with this new reality.
It is now essentially a coin flip whether or not a random College or University graduate will land in a satisfying career in their field. As a parent, I find myself asking, “Am I Okay with leaving something this important to chance?” Because if my child falls on the wrong side of the coin flip, they will:
- NOT take the pre-requisite Grade 12 courses required by post-secondary programs that feed 75% of the high-quality careers in today’s marketplace. (Only about 15% of students currently take any one of the Grade 12 science courses)
- NOT be eligible to apply to most of the post-secondary programs that fuel the top careers in today’s market (i.e. STEM – science, technology, engineering, math)
- APPLY to a social science, arts, humanities, or teacher’s college program often because those pesky STEM prerequisites are not required. (50% of university students are in these programs that are only feeding one-third of today’s job market)
- NOT FIND full employment in their field upon graduation
- Be FORCED to work in an unrelated field requiring general skills, which will result in lower pay and satisfaction than the field they were expecting to work in.
- ACCUMULATE school debt of $15K on average (17% have $30k to $50K)
- Be FORCED to re-train in skills in higher demand
So, what can we do, as parents, to slant the odds back in our favour?
1) It all starts with making education a true priority in my household. The outdated thinking of the previous generation (i.e. “the school system will ensure career success for my child”) is the dangerous trap many of us continue to fall into. The traditional school system is necessary but not sufficient for success in today’s knowledge economy. As parents we need to provide resources above and beyond the default school curriculum, the same way we do for youth sports, music, dance, etc. If you still lack motivation, check out this gripping documentary, called “Generation Screwed”
2) Allocate household time and budget accordingly. The average Canadian household currently spends twice as much on recreational activities as we do on education. This is completely the opposite from many of the leading educational nations across the globe. For an eye awakening account of how quickly North America is falling behind in the global job market, check out the trailer to this revealing documentary following high school students in China, India, and the U.S. called “2 Million Minutes”
3) Ruthlessly prioritize the skill sets that are essential requirements for tomorrow’s most desirable careers. All subjects and skills are not created equal. As parents, we need to approach things very systematically for our overscheduled children. Always linking cause and effect. It is prudent to start from a range of desired careers, look at their key success factors and educational prerequisites and work backward. With younger children, we are just trying to keep as many attractive options open as possible, which often means we maximize STEM skills and language skills. As our children grow older, they will naturally begin to focus down their options based on subject choices at school and their personal interests and aptitudes. As a parent, the key is to ensure our children’s choices are as fully informed as possible along the way. Here is a great visual tool to help guide the skill prioritization process.
4) Choose resources that develop, assess, and credential your target skill sets. The sheer volume of educational content on the Internet can be intimidating to decipher. Look for the tools that, not only provide quality content, but can also assess skill mastery and systematically track progress with robust reporting tools. As a parent, teacher or student, you need to be kept well informed so that you can address learning gaps early before they begin to limit educational and career choices. Keeping as many high-quality career choices open as long as possible is the name of the game!
This article was written by Doug Walker, a parent, and co-founder of STEM Village.