Demand for university grads not being met

British Columbia is providing enough vocational and technical training, but not enough university education.

That's the conclusion of a recent study by Economics Prof. Robert Allen on the demand and supply of post-secondary education and training in B.C.

"There's a strongly held view that we should continue to emphasize vocational and technical training," says Allen. "My findings show this approach to be misguided."

The study reveals that between 1992 and 1996, the provincial economy required about 35,000 university graduates annually, but B.C.'s universities only produced 12,000. This means that two-thirds of high quality, well-paying jobs went begging and were filled by people moving to B.C. from other provinces, Allen says.

At the same time, the demand for another 35,000 people with trade, technical, and vocational credentials was met by provincial supply.

"We don't need to expand technical and vocational training any further," says Allen, "but the university system is far too small."

According to the study, B.C. is last among Canadian provinces in the number of degrees awarded per resident aged 20-29, and has the smallest university system, relative to its population, of any province.

While running a small university system may save the B.C. government money, Allen cautions it reduces earnings prospects for children.

The real losers, he says, are children growing up outside of the major urban areas where most universities are located, since travel discourages attendance. And the days of people in smaller communites having access to good jobs in the resource industries are over, he adds.

"The labour market now is very uncertain. People move and change jobs a lot, so they really need general skills, and they need to be lifelong learners. A university education is well-suited to give people those skills."