02 SES 02 A, Reflections on VET: Looking to the Future
The role of education in increasing national economic competitiveness has been a key focus in K-to-12 and post-secondary education in Canada and other OECD countries for over three decades. School reforms in many parts of Canada in the 1990s encouraged closer ties between schools and businesses and the promotion of school choice through quasi-markets in education, both within a context of decreased public funding. In this climate, youth were increasingly asked to invest in their employability.
The goal of developing an enterprise culture, which requires individuals to take responsibility for their own welfare, is currently reinforced by the popular discourse of skills mismatch—a shift from the earlier focus on increasing formal educational attainment to address skills shortage. While the discourse of skills shortage called for public investments in human capital, current public investments are targeted to high demand occupational areas. Today’s youth are asked to view their education, training, and career choices through a labour market lens to increase their chances of securing viable employment.
This presentation looks at the implications of skills mismatch discourse for high school education. I argue that this discourse, perpetuated by Canadian governments and employers, continues to hold educational institutions responsible for economic problems. Further, one solution to skills mismatch is to stream different students into different “career pathways,” a response that is likely to perpetuate social inequality if it does not also address the persistent academic-vocational divide. After documenting the emergence of skills mismatch discourse, I discuss its problematic aspects and propose alternatives.
*(I use the words allotted to method below to discuss outcomes since this is more of a 'thought piece' than report of specific study).
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