Universities can improve their students’ chances of finding work by providing them with opportunities to earn and use microcredentials and by pairing them with mentors.

Rising student debt is a cause for concern in light of the impending economic downturn. These characteristics, along with a severely expensive housing market, emphasize the importance of colleges and institutions educating students for the workforce.

This goes against what universities have always been about. University missions have historically included “providing liberal education for undergraduates,” as noted by George Fallis, professor emeritus of economics at York University.

This is the stuff that makes people into independent thinkers and model citizens. There is value in educating future leaders, and this goal can be reconciled with assisting students in developing marketable skills and making education more widely available and relevant.

Prospects for obtaining a job

In Canada, a bachelor’s degree boosts career prospects by over 25% compared to a high school diploma alone, but not all students enjoy the same advantages.

Ninety percent of Canadian college and university grads have jobs three years after receiving their degrees; however, women and humanities majors are more likely to hold part-time positions. Some people choose to work less hours, but 42% of them have to.
Worryingly, only about one-fifth of recent graduates are actually using the skills they learned in school; the rest are working in fields that have no relation to their degrees at all. Worse yet, many college grads are underemployed, meaning they are working in fields that demand less than a bachelor’s degree. Overqualification is more pervasive among foreign-educated immigrant women than it is among Canadian-educated women.

Since the pandemic began, many low-income Canadians have been forced deeper into poverty. People’s interest in furthering their education often rises during economic downturns, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate they’ll commit to a four-year program.

Collaborative Work History

A data-gathering organization called Times Higher Education issued a list of the colleges whose graduates were deemed the most employable by businesses throughout the world in 2021. While the specific organizations and industries included in the list are not made known, many of the schools mentioned include real-world work experience and internships as part of their degree programs.

To make their programs more appealing to their target audience, institutions can take the following four steps

1. Mini-certifications

Microcredentials are defined as “certification of assessed competencies that are supplementary, alternate, complementary, or a component of a formal qualification” by Colleges and Institutes Canada.

Microcredentials are short, modular programs or courses that help students acquire the skills and knowledge they need to enter the Canadian labor market and find employment in high-demand fields and communities.

Universities can provide microcredentials by repurposing existing coursework, developing new courses quickly to address niches in the labor market, and establishing trustworthy assessment practices.

According to a report compiled for the British Columbia Council on Admissions and Transfer, a non-profit organization responsible for regulating credit-transfer agreements between post-secondary institutions, Thompson Rivers University and Simon Fraser are two universities with exemplary practices in providing microcredit courses. There is an organization in Ontario called eCampusOntario whose goal is to help fund experimental programs.

2. Recognizing and Assessing Prior Learning

The acronym “PLAR” stands for “Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition,” and it is a method used by universities to formally acknowledge students’ prior learning and competencies in comparison to institutionally mandated criteria and rules.

By drawing on prior learning and experience, PLAR eliminates the need for a person to repeat the same learning processes over and over again. It’s a win-win for students because earning credits toward certain degrees or certificates can shorten their time commitments and reduce their costs. PLAR increases adult students’ completion rates by 17 percent, according to a recent research by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, a non-profit in the United States that assists Western states and universities handle employment and higher education concerns.

Colleges and universities can give PLAR by evaluating student work on a case-by-case basis to determine whether or not a student’s portfolio, project, or challenge demonstrates the required level of knowledge, skills, and abilities. Athabasca University, in Alberta, for instance, has a fully PLAR-accredited learning center.

3, mentoring

Peer mentoring, mentorship by professionals in the community and industry, and student leadership in each of these areas are all important ways that people can learn from and support one another. As they gain knowledge and experience in specific subjects, university students must prioritize developing human ties.

Since many universities have closed as a result of the pandemic, students have lost their feeling of community. Through their alumni networks or partners, universities can test out unique approaches to creating mentorship programs, including but not limited to traditional one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring, team mentoring, peer mentoring, and online mentoring.

4: Alliances

By working together, universities can reach out to local businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies to form fruitful collaborations. Mentorship, internships, and other forms of experiential learning are just some of the ways in which university relationships benefit both parties.

Collaborations can take many forms, including but not limited to research projects, internships, co-ops, funded PhDs or post-doctoral fellowships, networking events, seminars on prototype or product development, workshops on relevant skills, innovation challenges, and alliances to provide mentorship to students.

This isn’t a new idea, but by combining microcredentials, PLAR, mentoring, and collaborations, colleges may increase the practical application of their students’ education. It can make them more marketable to potential employers while also being sensitive to a wider range of demands and operating smoothly within the existing framework.

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