Opinion

Muskens: What will your education get you?

Reflection at this time of year tends to centre around giving to others and being thankful for what we have.

According to a number of reports, this year hasn’t been great for a significant number of Canadians. Many cite increases in consumer debt, a relatively stagnant job market and lack of retirement savings by most Canadians.

Anyone from the outside looking in would wonder why we scored so high on the global happiness report published this past summer.

For those of us in education, this year we saw an increase in high school students considering the trades as a viable career option. Across the province there were record enrolments in electrical, welding, automotive technician and heavy duty mechanic programs - those trades are most likely to provide job opportunities up north and in Alberta.

Another interesting development was the decline in those students entering Bachelor of Arts programs. This might be attributed to a number of reports coming out in the media that students with these credentials are finding it difficult to secure full-time employment.

Although this is the case for some of these grads, many students with an arts degree find work in a number of fields. I know many people who have an arts degree, including myself, who have great jobs and I know many young adults with a similar credential who are working full-time.

The key with a bachelor of arts degree is having a plan on where you want it to take you. There is no sense completing this kind of credential if you can’t envision the type of work you want to do upon graduation.

For example, if you are considering an English major but you don’t want to work as a teacher, pursue a master’s degree, write or edit copy you might want to consider another major—or invest more energy in exploring what you can do with the degree.

Students with arts degrees should also make sure they have what I would call high-end computer skills. This means you know how to update a web page, create spreadsheets and be able to utilize a number of different software programs required in the work place.

Employers are not only looking for someone with a university degree, they are also looking for someone who can function in today’s work environment; computer skills are a must.

Programs in health related areas were strong again this year, Okanagan College saw increased demand in most of these programs.

New for 2014 is a Pharmacy Technician program which will start in April 2014 at the Kelowna campus. The college offered this program through distance education last year, but has now changed it to an in-class program. Upon completion of this certificate, students can write a national exam and become a certified pharmacy technician.

As the demand for workers changes so does the demand for training and education in a number of fields. Colleges and universities are always looking forward in order to anticipate and meet this demand. This coming year, if we see continued resource exploration and extraction, and the demand for health care continues to grow, we can expect both the trades and health programs to witness high enrolments.

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