Accelerated Learning for a Two-Speed Labor Market

Accelerated Learning for a Two-Speed Labor Market
The labor market is no longer suited to skills students learn through traditional degree programs. It’s up to continuing education units to provide students with a link between their education and a job.

Canada boasts one of the most educated populations on earth. More than 56 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds in the country have postsecondary credentials.

But there’s a problem, a growing divide between have and have-not occupations. Our highly educated, creative graduates are increasingly under-employed or unemployed in what analysts call a two-speed labor market: one is high speed, where skilled jobs go unfilled, and the other is a low-speed market awash with educated workers who can’t find jobs.

And the situation isn’t likely to improve. By 2030, more than half of the current jobs will change or disappear. Yet, Canadian universities graduate 254,000 students every year, many of whom are educated for jobs that no longer exist.

For most students, the main motivation for university is to get a job. While universities seem content to fill lecture halls, many students now graduate from university with a degree in hand but with no career plan.

Our ever-changing digitally-driven world requires workers with specific, deep skills in areas of expertise, as well as broad knowledge of management and business operations.

Getting a career and staying relevant requires continuing education. This is true not just for workers seeking retraining and upgrading, but also for recent grads that increasingly see continuing studies programs as “finishing schools” that add practical and workforce-relevant skills to their undergraduate and graduate education.

The Writing & Communications division of Continuing Studies at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, Canada, has developed a number of accelerated nine-week continuing education programs taught by industry expert instructors using real-world case studies. These programs run full-time during the day and include an on-the-job practicum.

Accelerated programs are currently offered in public relations, new media journalism and digital communications. The programs, developed in cooperation with industry leaders, are taught in small classes (of no more than 20 students) and focus on technical and practical, industry-required skills.

One example is the nine-week full-time digital communications certificate program launched by SFU Continuing Studies Writing & Communications in January 2013. The first instalment of the intensive program attracted university-educated adults seeking a range of digital communications secrets from e-marketing and search engine optimization to mobile communications and pay-per-click online advertising, and also workforce-relevant competencies such as presentation skills, resume building, job hunting and interviewing skills.

SFU Continuing Studies has other accelerated programs, including Business to Business Marketing, in the planning stage and will continue to provide innovative programs that build a better fit between graduates and the labor market.

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Readers Comments

Kendra Willis 2013/04/01 at 11:45 am

I have a few questions about the structure of SFU’s continuing education accelerated programs. If they run full-time and during the day, how are working adults supposed to access them? As for the “on-the-job practicum,” I wonder how much time students spend on these, considering that the entire program is only nine weeks long. And are these open to/required of all adult students, including those who may already have jobs in the field in which they would be doing a practicum? I’m just interested to know why these particular decisions were made and how they have affected (either positively or negatively) enrollment in these programs.

    Peter Walton 2013/04/02 at 2:58 pm

    The programs are very popular in the nine week format as they are aimed at graduates looking for work in the PR, New Media Journalism and Digital Communications fields.
    Classes are full time Tuesday to Saturday for six weeks followed by three weeks of a Monday to Friday practicum (which often leads to a longer internship). While we don’t currently offer part time programs for those already working in the fields we are introducing a series of one day intensive “Boot Camps” on everything from Succeeding at Freelance Writing and Communications Planning to Social Media and HTML and CSS.

    Thanks for your comments.

Rebecca Cruser 2013/04/01 at 5:03 pm

It’s disappointing that graduates of undergraduate programs now have to pursue additional education in order to learn the basics, such as interview or resume skills. What is the value of an undergraduate degree if it can’t even teach a person how to apply for a job?

    Peter Walton 2013/04/02 at 2:49 pm

    A good question. Applying for jobs is a skill that all degrees should teach but surprisingly few do.

    Thanks, for your comment.

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