An Amazing Statscan Skills Study

Alex Usher, Higher Education Strategy Associates, Jan 30, 2017
Commentary by Stephen Downes

A recent Statistics Canada report makes for fascinating reading, though I caution that it's based largely on perceptions, which as we know can be misleading. Alex Usher does a decent job summarizing it. Basically, they examine job descriptions to see what skills are required, examine university graduates to see what jobs they get, and through that determine what skills characterize what university programs. It's interesting because 'humanities' sits at the bottom of the scale on just about everything, as does education (which does marginally well in social skills). Scientific, technical and professional programs rank the highest, even for skills normally associated with the humanities, such as reading comprehension and critical thinking. So what accounts for this? Well, like I say, perception. If we look at the most common jobs table, we find a disproportionate number of humanities majors in sales and retail, the rest in education. These are either not perceived as higher-skilled occupations, not described as precisely as scientific, technical and professional occupations, or really are lower-skilled. Take your pick.

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