University grads enrol at vocational colleges

University grad says degrees are a “dime a dozen”

Students walking out of NSCC. Photo: Elizabeth Whitten

In high school Lauren Slaunwhite remembers she was constantly bombarded with the message she needed to have a university degree. Being a university grad was the path to success Slaunwhite felt she had to take. It was in her fourth year into a degree that she started to consider a college program to top off her time at university.

She completed a bachelor of science in geography at Saint Mary’s University in 2013. But it wasn’t enough to get her a job in the field she wanted to be in.

Degrees are “a dime a dozen,” Slaunwhite says.

Slaunwhite is now enrolled in the advanced diploma in the Oceans Technology program at Nova Scotia Community College. In her fourth year she decided to finish her degree and then apply to NSCC. The program she’s enrolled in does require a university degree, but many programs at the NSCC only require a high school diploma or equivalent.

Slaunwhite hasn’t finished the NSCC program and she’s already working as an aquatic science technician at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Tools of the trade

Although exact statistics are hard to come by, more university graduates than ever appear to be going back to school — at colleges, not universities.

There are no numbers in the Maritime provinces regarding how many students go on to colleges. The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada doesn’t track the numbers, but a researcher for the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission says it is in the process of looking at the trend of students with degrees heading to the trades.

Chief executive officer of Colleges Ontario, Linda Franklin has noticed a growing trend of university graduates enrolling in college programs.

“The combination of applied and theoretical education is giving many students a leg up in looking for a job,” Franklin states.

A report by Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission suggests 19 per cent of 2007 university graduates pursued some kind of a post-secondary education below the level of a bachelor’s degree within two years of graduation.

A McKinsey and Company report found that the jobs university grads were being hired for didn’t require the education they had. According to their report, 42 per cent of graduates didn’t need a four-year program to do the job and are overqualified.

Cody Ross is a program advisor at da Vinci College, a technology college in Halifax. He graduated from the University of New Brunswick in 2003, where he majored in marketing. When he graduated, he wasn’t able to get a job in his field and went into sales instead.

In 2007 he applied for a program for writing in film and television at the Vancouver Film School. Upon graduating he went to work for the film school’s or the technology college’s admissions office.

The program was only a year long, which can be an factor in choosing to enrol.

“One of the main reasons, especially for the mature student who has the degrees, is they want to go for a year, maybe two, and then they can go right away to work,” Ross says. At 27 years-of-age, it was what appealed to him.

Student outside NSCC waiting to bus. Photo: Elizabeth Whitten

Education is still currency

According to an Employment and Social Development Canada report an educated worker earns a higher income and has more benefits. The worker also has better odds of staying employed.

Stats Canada found in the in 2009/2010 period, four out of 10 graduates chose to go back to university for further education.

With university, graduates are facing soaring debt and dim job prospects. Many students are buckling down and going back to school. Colleges can offer similar programs as universities and they are typically shorter programs. They can get students out the door and working sooner.

While university enrolment is dropping, trade schools are seeing an increase in students registering. According to Statistics Canada in 2011-2012 there were 527,433 full-time students enrolled in colleges. For the years of 2005-2006, Statistics Canada reported there were 531,972 students enrolled in colleges programs.

Slaunwhite is glad that she has a university degree because it “helps me feel more well-rounded,” but “I have so much debt.”



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