More than half of employers say high schools do not adequately prepare them for modern jobs, according to a new report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
The report found that young people are woefully unprepared for the modern workplace after four years of high school
Colleges did better at preparing grads for employment, with 51 per cent of employers saying they were very or somewhat satisfied, compared to only 37 per cent who were satisfied with how universities prepare their students for a career.
“There is a clear gap between what employers need and the skills our educational institutions emphasize,” said Corinne Pohlmann, CFIB’s senior vice-president of national affairs. “Schools at the secondary and post-secondary level tend to be more focused on preparing youth for higher education instead of work. Too many young people enter the workforce without the critical soft skills employers look for, putting them at a serious disadvantage when they look for that foundational first job.”
CFIB’s report, Hire Education: Connecting youth and small businesses for the jobs of today, recommends that high schools and post-secondary institutions collaborate with the business community to help close the gap by revamping their curriculums to emphasize soft skills like workplace communication, problem solving and networking, and promoting careers in the trades.
The perception that careers in the skilled trades are less valuable than white collar work also contributes to the mismatch between the skills young people study and labour market needs.
“Many of our country’s entrepreneurs and job creators are small business owners in the skilled trades,” added Emilie Hayes, CFIB’s policy analyst and co-author of the report. “We shouldn’t stigmatize those jobs and turn young people off from them. Our workforce today and in the future will need tradespeople as much as it needs tech workers and white collar professionals.”
Small business owners are eager to hire young workers and willing to invest in training them, provided they have the right attitude and soft skills. However, hiring and training inexperienced workers is more costly for employers than hiring experienced workers and that cost is going up due to payroll tax increases and minimum wage hikes.
Governments and schools must create more work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunities, such as co-ops and internships, especially in sectors experiencing labour shortages. Governments can further improve the accessibility of WIL opportunities and encourage more small businesses to take on inexperienced workers by offsetting the cost of hiring through measures like co-op tax credits or a holiday on Employment Insurance premiums for young employees.
“Helping young people transition into the workforce and connect with meaningful work is an investment in the future of our economy. Governments, schools, employers and young people all have a part to play,” concluded Pohlmann.