By Tricia Seifert
I’ve been watching this conversation about re-tooling postsecondary education to meet Ontario’s job needs with keen interest. It seems that many see the role of postsecondary education as providing job training, particularly in Ontario’s college sector. But even beyond the express vocational education mandate of the colleges, one need not look far to find those who talk about university graduates who do not have the skills to find a job in today’s economy. It seems both of Ontario’s postsecondary education sectors are being called to task to educate graduates for today’s work force. On its face, this seems to be a logical point of view. But when we dig a little deeper, we realize that today’s labour needs will not be the needs of tomorrow. A good number of jobs that exist today did not exist ten years ago. How does postsecondary education meet the needs of a labour market that is ever-changing?
I suggest that colleges and universities must think of education as that which begins with content knowledge (whether that content knowledge is in auto mechanics or Canadian literature) but continues with educating students in the transferable skills of critical thinking and effective reasoning as well as communication – writing and speaking—across modes (blogs, formal memos, tweets) and to multiple audiences. Couple these transferable skills with the transferable attitudes/dispositions of respectfully working with and learning from members of diverse communities, developing the capacity to learn how one learns and a willingness to see learning as a lifelong process to round-out an education. In this regard, postsecondary education is framed by the content knowledge (as the context for student learning) but focuses its efforts on developing transferable skills and attitudes that enable graduates to contribute meaningfully as citizens of their communities and re-invent themselves as the job market evolves.
Reflecting on the hundreds of definitions of student success we have heard from participants in the Supporting Student Success study, I suggest a postsecondary education that develops these transferable skills and attitudes is one that truly positions students to be successful both today and in years to come.
We love hearing from you. What do you think about this conversation to re-tool PSE? What is the role of PSE in educating students for the work force? How are we doing? What could we do better? Please leave a comment and be part of the conversation.