Education News – The gap year trade-off: higher employment, lower income

TORONTO (CUP) — Students who take a year off between high school and university have higher employment rates than those who burn straight through, according to a new study.

Youth aged 22 to 24 were the subjects of a study released by Statistics Canada . . . on January 7. The study found that the employment rate for ?gap? students was 87.5 per cent compared to 79.6 per cent for non-gappers. But don’t book your ski trip just yet.

?However, when you look at earnings, those who went straight through and got a university degree, their median weekly earnings were higher. So a bit of a mixed message here, and something I try and emphasize is that these are very early labour market earnings,? Kathryn McMullen of Statistics Canada explained.

The data for the study was drawn from the Statistics Canada Youth in Transition Survey, which began tracking the youth in 1999 when they were 18 to 20 years old. Subjects were contacted every two years to see where they are at.

The study compiled data from gap and non-gap students, including students who went straight into the workforce from high school and students who dropped out of university or college without finishing their degree.

?There’s a number of pathways youth can take from high school into the labour market,? McMullen said. ?So this larger study [published in November] really did a tracking of a large number of these pathways. So we thought, well let’s focus on one of these and track them through and see if there are differences in those early labour market experiences.?

McMullen said that her organization will continue tracking the youth to see if the initial employment and income levels are stable over time. She stressed that these results are very early labour market analysis, and the study also did not include students of that age bracket who were still in school.

She noted that the higher earnings could be explained by people who had already finished a master’s degree or other form of higher education before moving into the workforce.

?That’s what we want to try and sort out in terms of do the employment rates close and do the earnings gap reduce??

The biggest thing current university and college students can take away from the latest report is that completing post-secondary education pays off in the long run.

?Whether you take a gap or don’t take a gap, make sure that you go on to college or university and complete your program. It’s very clear that that whole group of people are doing much better in the labour market.

?The second message would be, and again this is one that we can’t really answer, but I think It’s a concern of parents and students themselves?if I take a break, will I go back on to school??

McMullen said that data collection is complete on the youth at the age of 24-26, and a follow-up study will be done with students aged 26-28. She expects that data to be released early next year.

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