Yet Another Diversion: College, Skills, and Work

As the weather offers us a brief glimpse of sunshine and milder temperatures here in Southwestern Ontario, I feel the winds of change approaching. Doesn’t everyone go through a little mini transformation, a shedding of the skin, when springtime approaches? Houses are cleaned of rubbish, cars are scrubbed free of ice and salt, and winter wardrobes shed layers to reveal our pale, vitamin D-deprived skin.

Roughly around this time last year, I was preparing to go away from the American Association of Geographers (AAG) conference. It was a time of forward movement, as I also landed my internship with the Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation (SWOTC). I felt the world was working in my favour.

This year things stand a little differently. I’m done with school and working part-time, presumably allowing me ample periods of time for job searching, interviewing, and putting my career on the fast track to success. Instead I find myself mired in the fog of “disengaged confusion” which Erik Erikson (a pioneer in self identity studies) warned can beset young people – ultimately causing them to become irrelevant (Jay, August 2012).

The elements of my education which I always considered to be strong assets are here transformed into boat anchors of significant weight; I thought my general, scatter-gun approach to learning would mean that I’d be flexible and adaptive in an uncertain job market. Instead, I can’t match my limited talents to job descriptions. I feel pressured to get any job, no matter its relevance to my past education and experience. Further, I’m beset by insecurities over my liberal arts skill set and find it challenging to build up the motivation to even apply to jobs.

Recent news reports provide evidence of ongoing and wide-spread anxieties about the job market in Canada. The Globe and Mail recently published an article contrasting different statistics reporting on the paradox of “[t]oo many people without jobs. And at the same time, too many jobs without people” in our current economy (Grant, February 17th, 2014). Statistics on the Canadian labour market seem to be scarce and lack details on specific populations, particularly immigrants, aboriginals, and the disabled (Grant, February 17th, 2014). Since we don’t know where we currently sit with jobs and employment, it’s hard to know how to move forward.  This macro-level economic concern perfectly reflects my own micro-level employment dilemma.

Every morning, however, I sit down to read about the state of education in Canada via the Academia Group’s “Today’s Top Ten” newsletter. Several of today’s stories focused on colleges – their plans for readying a skilled workforce and their efforts to rally Queen’s Park for more support towards youth unemployment (Colleges Ontario, 2014). Perhaps not surprising to those who know them, “[m]ore than 16 per cent of young people in Ontario are unemployed, while many others are working in jobs that don’t utilize their talents and competencies” (Colleges Ontario, 2014). Some of the demands on the table to improve this situation include (see Colleges Ontario, 2014):

  • “Ontario must help more people get access to post-secondary education, and ensure that greater numbers of post-secondary students get career-specific learning and training as part of their higher education”
  • “The provincial measures to transform post-secondary education should include expanding the range of degree programs in career-specific areas”
  • “The province must also reform apprenticeship training, and continue to strengthen its system for transferring completed post-secondary credits so that greater numbers of students can acquire a combination of both college and university education”

Though these demands are clearly biased in favour of the colleges, everyone stands to gain from an increased focus on tangible, career-ready skills for our nation’s young students.

Not even taking into consideration the other possible changes to the labour market (such as the increase in short-term contract work), these are scary times for workers everywhere. I take personal strength from proponents of active change, such as Dr. Meg Jay, and have lately been looking more carefully and seriously at programs and certifications that can boost my resume and my confidence in this competitive economy.

Have you gone back to college and gained specific skills which resulted in a relevant job? If so, please share by commenting below or on any of my social media networks!

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sending you all good energy from Maryland!

  2. marialegault says:

    Thanks, Kirsten! Right back ‘atcha from Kitchener 😀

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