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BC universities release data on graduate outcomes

December 26th, 2014 Posted in Education

University graduates in B.C. defy urban myth, find jobs
Long-term salaries higher for university grads: report

The Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia (RUCBC) has released a new report, Putting Degrees to Work, which assesses the employment status of university graduates 5 years after graduation. The report is based on a survey of the class of 2008, and reveals that even though these graduates faced a tough post-recession job market, in 2013 graduates had an unemployment rate of 4.7%, compared to the overall provincial unemployment rate of 6.6% and the provincial youth unemployment rate of 12.9%. Graduates were earning an average annual income of $60,000. The report serves to highlight the benefits of a university education in the face of BC’s recent emphasis on skills training and resource sector-related jobs. “The success university graduates are having also shows that to keep BC’s economy growing, we need to graduate students at every level in post-secondary education, in science, in business, in the trades and in the humanities,” said Thompson Rivers University President Alan Shaver. “To keep growing and generating new jobs, BC’s economy needs more people with post-secondary credentials.”

In a province banking its economic future on the proposed liquefied natural gas industry and other resource projects, it is not just welders and pipefitters who are finding jobs.

A report released today finds people who graduated five years ago from B.C. universities have a lower jobless rate than the provincial average, and aims to shatter the myth that people with university degrees are chronically unemployed or underemployed.

“What it shows, contrary to some urban legends, is that a university education is in fact doing a very good job of preparing students for the labour market,” said Andrew Petter, president of Simon Fraser University and chairman of the Research Universities’ Council of B.C., which produced the report.

“Those who say a university education is out of step in today’s job market” may be surprised by the findings, the report says.

In April, the provincial government unveiled its Skills and Jobs Blueprint, and asked post-secondary institutions to focus in the future on “high-demand” occupations such as business, commerce and health. The implication was that philosophy and English degrees were not as valued.

That prompted university leaders to jump to the defence of a classic university education.

In an interview Thursday, Petter and UBC president Arvind Gupta said the new report proves universities are already preparing students in every discipline for the labour market.

“Young people have skills that employers are looking for and once they get into the job market they are able to leverage those skills pretty quickly and get much better outcomes over time,” Gupta said.

The report uses BC Stats data that tracked students who graduated in 2008, a difficult year to find employment because the world was gripped by a large economic downturn.

It focuses on outcomes for students who completed an undergraduate degree from one of the province’s six research universities: UBC, SFU, University of Victoria, UNBC, Royal Roads, and Thompson Rivers.

The report found that in 2010, two years after graduation, the unemployment rate among this group of students averaged 6.9 per cent, although it was lower for health and education grads and higher for engineering and arts grads.

By 2013, five years after graduation, the unemployment rate for this group fell to 4.7 per cent, well below the 2013 B.C. youth unemployment rate of 12.9 per cent and B.C.’s overall jobless rate of 6.6 per cent.

The lowest employment figures within this group were for arts and science graduates, 6.3 per cent of whom were still unemployed five years after university.

Petter argued the study shows that arts graduates might take longer to find a job in their field, but once they do their long term salary potential is much better than those with high school, college or trades diplomas.

“It takes a while for all students to get jobs. So the focus tends to go toward that anxiety and the focus on those who are, perhaps, struggling for the first year or so out of university. What this report shows is those students do get jobs and do very well going forward,” Petter said.

A chart in the report shows, two years after graduation, those with bachelor and post-grad degrees are earning salaries just slightly higher than young people with college diplomas or trade certificates. But, over the course of a lifetime, the gulf between the salaries is predicted to widen significantly.

“There is a huge amplification for people who have a university education … in terms of income and career success,” Petter said.

The university of today is different from previous generations; students are offered co-ops and internships to get practical experience, and the six research universities in this province have recently increased courses in high-demand fields such as health, business, engineering and sciences, Gupta said.

Terry Ho, 28, graduated with a business degree from SFU in 2008 and seamlessly moved into her first job with the firm where she had been doing a co-op term. She is a firm believer in university education, and said the success of graduates depends on how diligently they pursue employment after graduation.

“I have a few friends who did an arts degree and they have gone into education or psychological counselling, so it depends on how much work you want to do,” she said.

Matt Corker graduated with a commerce degree from UBC in 2008, did an international MBA, and is now the quality operations manager at Lululemon. His time at university, he said, provided him with volunteer and internship experiences that helped him get a job.

“The most applicable skill was the ability to work with others and make critical decisions,” he said. “I definitely have a strong desire to continue learning and that was fostered at UBC.”

Some of the students tracked in the report may have gone to another university or a college to continue their education in the five years after graduation, but Gupta said that does not diminish the success of grads from the six research universities. The report is intended, he said, to celebrate the importance of pursuing any post-secondary education.

The students captured in the BC Stats data represent roughly 20 per cent of all 2008 undergrads from the six research universities.

October 24, 2014
By Lori Culbert, Vancouver Sun

B.C. university degree a good investment according to Class of 2008 graduate survey

VANCOUVER – A B.C. university degree is a proven path to employment and a good investment in the future says a new report released today by B.C.’s six research universities, which tracks the outcomes of the graduating class of 2008.

Called Putting Degrees to Work, the report uses student survey data collected by BC Stats showing that five years after graduating, the Class of 2008 has lower unemployment rates and higher salaries than those who did not complete an undergraduate degree. Contrary to the view that university degrees aren’t relevant to today’s job market, the report shows that the vast majority of university graduates are working in fields related to their education.

“The Class of 2008 graduated on the cusp of the worst global economic downturn since the Great Depression,” said Andrew Petter, Chair of the Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia. “Today’s survey shows that the skills and knowledge these students acquired at a B.C. university prepared them to take advantage of the economic recovery.”

According to the report’s findings, the graduating class of 2008 had an unemployment rate of 4.7 per cent five years after collecting their degrees. This number was well below the overall provincial unemployment rate of 6.6 per cent and the provincial youth unemployment rate of 12.9 per cent. At the same time, those graduates were earning a yearly average of $60,000.

“Today’s economy is driven by creativity, innovation, and new ideas,” said University of British Columbia President Arvind Gupta. “That’s why the skills our students acquire are so important in today’s fast-changing labour market.”

In addition to tracking the Class of 2008, Putting Degrees to Work also shows how universities are responding to changing student demand. Degrees in engineering, applied sciences and business have increased by 34 per cent since 2006.

“Today’s students are very savvy,” said University of Northern British Columbia President Daniel Weeks. “And they are choosing fields that are in high demand by employers. That is leading to significant changes in university programming to meet the needs of today’s students. For example, at the University of Northern B.C., we are graduating more engineers than ever before, students who will be needed in B.C.’s emerging LNG industry.”

University of Victoria President Jamie Cassels said that the survey reflects what employers around the province are telling him. “Many of British Columbia’s leading job creators are looking for people with the kinds of skills that university teaches, from critical thinking to clear communication. That is one reason why we are seeing graduates in every program succeed in the job market.”

Royal Roads University President Allan Cahoon added that “continuous learning opportunities provided by universities like Royal Roads are extremely valuable to employers who are looking for graduates who can adapt and respond to fast-changing labour market demands.”

“The success university graduates are having also shows that to keep B.C.’s economy growing, we need to graduate students at every level in post-secondary education, in science, in business, in the trades and in the humanities,” said Thompson Rivers University President Alan Shaver. “To keep growing and generating new jobs, B.C.’s economy needs more people with post-secondary credentials.”


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