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Ontario universities set their sights on a shifting target

Ontario universities set their sights on a shifting target
Canada
The Council of Ontario Universities has launched a survey iabout the changing job market, new technologies and continued globalization.   (Dreamstime)  

Sat., Sept. 24, 2016

As young people are dealing with a shifting job landscape, Ontario universities are working to better prepare students for a future we may not be able to imagine.

The Council of Ontario Universities has launched a survey in an effort to spur a conversation about the changing job market, new technologies and continued globalization.

The council is a lobby group, which has all of the province’s universities as members, that helps school administrators reach consensus on post-secondary issues and promotes those issues to the government and other stakeholders.

Council president David Lindsay said the survey is the first of two stages in tackling an “uncertain” future.

First, he said, they’ll be listening to what people have to say.

“We’re going to be sitting down with chambers of commerce, municipal and community leaders and members of the arts community right across the province to ask them about their concerns and their ideas,” he said.

That includes people who aren’t already part of the university system, who the council plans to reach out to on social media like Twitter and Snapchat.

“We know that people in Ontario have seen huge changes in the manufacturing sector over the years. There’s been lots of international competition for new jobs and new businesses,” he said. “The challenge for all of us is things are changing so quickly.”

And according to a 2013 study out of Oxford University, nearly half of American jobs are at risk of becoming computerized in coming years.

Jobs that exist when a student enters university may not exist when they come out, Lindsay said, adding that jobs will exist in 10 years that we can’t even imagine now.

But he added that universities should be able to help people adapt to new jobs. He said the schools excel at teaching so-called “soft skills” like communication and analytical thinking, which can be helpful for people looking for jobs that may not have existed in previous years.

Lindsay said that the second stage of the survey process is interpreting the results and coming up with an action plan for how universities can adapt and better prepare students.
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