Taking Notes: Eye on Education – Alberta Labour Shortage

This column focuses on a wide range of issues affecting post-secondary students. Students are encouraged to submit suggestions and educational topics they are concerned about, or personal experiences with courses or university situations they feel other students should know about. If suggest a topic or a course alert for taking notes, contact djabbour@ausu.org

ALBERTA LABOUR SHORTAGE

The Province of Alberta enjoys an abundance of energy wealth that has created such a vibrant economy that even the BSE crisis has not had much of an impact. We are debt free and the future looks positive–yet according to some, an “ominous labour trend” looms on the horizon (Lamphier, 2005). In a report released last week by the Canada West Foundation, chief economist Todd Hirsch warns that of 76 major industry associations, 73 are predicting moderate to severe worker shortages within five years. Sixty-two of these groups (81 percent) are already facing significant shortages of skilled labour, particularly in the rich province of Alberta. More than half of the industries predict that current post-secondary graduates from relevant programs will not be able to meet future needs.

The report identifies a solution to the problem that includes more funding for students and post-secondary institutions, more on-the-job training, and improved credit transfers between post-secondary schools. Other studies have said the same thing, noting that the situation will be exacerbated when large numbers of baby boomers retire.

The same week this report was released, the U of A announced a tuition hike of 5.75 percent. This represents a tuition increase for the 24th straight year, with tuition now at $4800 – an amount double that of ten years ago and triple the tuition levels of the 1980s (Alberta tuition was $1586 in 1990-1991 according to Statistics Canada). Other Alberta universities will likely follow suit with similar tuition hikes, a move that makes post-secondary education even less accessible. In the face of a severe shortage of skilled workers, a shortage that could lead to economic crisis, the government of the wealthy province of Alberta remains oblivious to the perilous state of post-secondary education.

Reference
Lamphier, G. (2005). Ominous labour trend threatens Alberta’s century: Better visions in post-secondary education necessary to turn out much-needed skilled workers. Edmonton Journal, January 18, 2005.

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