The Ontario government has pledged $800,000 to create 120 jobs in the high-tech sector for humanities and social sciences Ryerson graduates.
Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the funding, part of a joint project with Ryerson University, on Thursday.
“We thought (Ryerson had) a very strong program especially because of the involvement of major high-tech industry associations,” said Gabe De Roche, spokesperson for the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.
The new project will provide liberal arts grads with job placements and short-term training in “cutting edge,” high tech fields.
It aims to give these grads advanced skills within the information communications sector — skills that science graduates already learn within their school programs.
Ryerson dean of arts Jean-Paul Boudreau said that the program will also help to shorten the after-graduation job search.
“I am very confident about the extraordinary value of education in the social sciences and humanities in the 21st century university as a complement to industry specific training,” Boudreau said in an email. “I am very confident (that there is an) extraordinary value (to a social sciences and humanities) education in the 21st century. University (is) a complement to industry-specific training.”
The project is part of a $1.55-million expenditure that will also equip commercial bakers and metal workers with high-tech skills.
The remaining $750,000 will go to George Brown College to train under-employed and unemployed youth in these two fields.
“It’s not just training young people and sending them out to the world, although there’s nothing wrong with that,” De Roche said. “This program was especially to train people in those skills that specific industries have said is in high demand. And that’s what the program does.”
The two projects fall under the province’s new Youth Skills Connection program.
At a $25-million price tag, the program’s two-year goal is to cut back on labour shortages by linking employers, government, post-secondary institutions and young people.
However, Faculty of Arts students — the program had over 1,500 applicants for 1,200 seats last year — are already taught skills that are beneficial in the work field, Boudreau said. He cites skills like critical thinking, communication, problem-solving and researching in a variety of fields.
“Employers should be looking for social sciences and humanities graduates … Their prospects for the labour market have never been brighter,” Boudreau said.
“Our graduates have always been nimble (and) find jobs in many diverse areas.”
The Faculty of Arts, Boudreau said, is in the midst of creating other opportunities to help future arts students.
The faculty is currently working on creating the arts-based CivicVenture Zone, which will be Canada’s newest incubator for social entrepreneurship and civic enterprises.
“Technology is ever changing and we must engage it,” Boudreau said. “(CivicVenture Zone) introduces social entrepreneurship and civic innovation as a new viable career path to students, alumni and industry professionals, keeping ideas and jobs in our communities. It’s about passion, purpose and yes, a paycheque.”
Rick Miner, the former president of Seneca College and author of a 2014 report on the mismatch between the job market and the workforce titled “The Great Canadian Skills Mismatch”, said that the outlook for arts graduates, however, is not so bright.
“The problem is (that) we make students make career decisions in Grade 10 and the labour market changes so much by the time they graduate university,” Miner said.
The Youth Skills Connection program may address real-time job demands, but falls short in training for evolving and future jobs, according to Miner.
Miner said the solution is for universities to develop short, concise programs that will help people transition quickly into employment. So even if the student is studying in the arts, they can also prepare for the job marketwith a different skill set. But Miner has doubts this will happen.
“The university funded system is based on bodies,” Miner said. “We need to get away from body counts and funding issues and look at what benefits students best.”
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on March 26, 2014.