A growing number of university graduates are turning to college in search of a missing ingredient, a recent study by students in the Algonquin Marketing Research and Business Intelligence (MRBI) program found.
Their research delved deeper into a 2013 Ontario College statistic showing a steady rise in the number of university graduates attending college. At Algonquin, university graduates represent 12 percent of the student body as of 2014, up from nine per cent in 2009.
Among the study’s key findings was that 50 per cent of the surveyed university graduates applied to college or were considering applying to college with the primary goal of work experience in mind. 64 per cent of university graduates attending or interested in attending the college considered themselves “concerned” about their job prospects, compared to 44 per cent of their straight-to-college peers.
“The success rate of going the Bachelor of Arts route alone has not been sufficient enough,” said Algonquin economics professor Alistair McFarlane.
“Students are realizing that on the theoretical side they’re strong enough, but on the practical side there wasn’t enough to get them in the doorway.”
Anecdotal accounts depict some variety in the post-secondary background of Algonquin’s college-enrolled university graduates, suggests Anna Toneguzzo, the Director of Government Relations and Policy Research at Colleges and Institutes Canada.
“I was at Algonquin last Spring, and one of the research projects I saw were three young women – all three with their engineering degrees – who were in a post-grad program that Algonquin developed with Ottawa Hydro.
“These three young women said they came to Algonquin because of the post-grad program. It gave them exposure to a utility they couldn’t access anywhere else.”
Nancy Johansen, who oversaw the MRBI study as coordinator of the program, has observed some variety in the levels of post-secondary education on the resumes of her students.
“We’ve had students in my program with their Masters and with PhDs. They don’t just have a B. A.,” said Johansen.
“The ones who come in with a PhD tend to be more jaded (about job prospects) because that’s a lot of time and effort. The ones who come in with the undergrad – some are jaded, but some come in with their eyes open.”
Thomas Kiperchuk, a second-year Algonquin student in the Internet Applications and Web Development program who studied criminology at Carleton University as an undergrad, said his approach to post-secondary education if he could do it over.
“If I started over today I absolutely would bypass university and go to college,” said Kiperchuk.
“My generation was sold on university being the only path to success by our guidance counsellors and teachers. College was seen as the route for those with poor marks. All of the college grads I know are now employed in their field.”
Other students are happy to have a university degree under their belt but seem well aware that more formal education is needed before they’re on track for a successful career.
“I’ve had students tell me, ‘I wanted to take this program from the time I was in high school but I had to go and get a university degree first, and it prepared me,’” said Johansen.
“There are some who have said, ‘Okay, I’ve studied at university, now I need the extra layer on top.’”
Colleges across Ontario are responding to the growing demand for graduate certificate programs, Toneguzzo suggests. It’s more cost effective for employers, and college curriculums are predicated on their responsiveness to job market demands.
“With program advisory committees, they’ve got a group of employers around the table, and they’re saying, ‘what kind of training do we need to offer to respond to the demands of your sector,’” said Christine Trauttmansdorff, Vice President of Colleges and Institutes Canada.
“They’re constantly designing and re-designing, tweaking and adjusting, their curriculum and their approach to programs to better respond to the needs of the labour market.”