(Photo courtesy of LiUNA 625)(Photo courtesy of LiUNA 625)

More Canadians going to college or university, but skilled trades still lag

Canada has a lot of educated people, with a greater share than any other G7 nation having at least some college or university qualifications. However, the latest Statistics Canada report crunching data from the 2021 census suggests we're also leaving a lot of talent on the table.

The report, exploring education and labour trends, said only 41.1 per cent of immigrants with a foreign medical degree work as doctors. Just 36.5 per cent of foreign-trained nurses hold that position in Canada.

© Can Stock Photo / pressmaster © Can Stock Photo / pressmaster

That compares to nine out of ten native-born Canadians with those credentials.

Utilizing those under-used foreign healthcare workers could have significant implications for a sector plagued with staff shortages, observations governments are acting on. Last August, the Ford government directed the College of Nurses to speed up the registration process for internationally-trained nurses.

The report states Canada's economic stability partially lies in a highly educated and trained workforce. It noted how those with higher education were better able to withstand the economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"An educated population is crucial to maintaining Canada's standard of living and pace of economic growth in the coming years," it said. "Canada continues to perform strongly in terms of education on the world stage, benefitting from highly-educated immigrants and a growing share of young adults graduating from a college or university."

Six out of ten working-age Canadians have college or university credentials, and that rate is growing. The percentage of those 25 to 34 with a university degree climbed 2.7 per cent since 2016.

When to comes to those with a Bachelor's degree, Canada was in the middle of G7 nations. The United Kingdom, the United States, and Japan had more. For graduate degrees, Canada lagged even further iwth just 9.3 per cent. Elsewhere in the G7, that share ranged from 13 to 15 per cent.

Ontario and British Columbia saw the largest increases in degree holders in the past five years. In Ontario, the rate rose 4.9 per cent. However, Ontario and Western Canada receive more immigrants, and half of the overall growth is due to immigration. At the same time, a quarter of highly-trained new Canadians work jobs that require only a high school diploma.

While more and more young Canadians are seeking post-secondary education, the number who hold an apprenticeship in the skilled trades is either stagnating or falling. In construction, the number barely changed, rising just 0.6 per cent since 2016. During the same period, those in mechanics and repair technology slipped 7.8 per cent, and 10 per cent in precision production. Fewer young people are filling positions left by those retiring, and vacancies in those fields reached record highs this year.

(Photo courtesy of LiUNA 625) (Photo courtesy of LiUNA 625)

Statistics Canada's report did offer somewhat of a solution. It said, "the number of potential workers in the trades fields of construction trades, mechanic and repair technologies, and precision production has been limited by the underrepresentation of women, racialized groups, and immigrants."

The report also suggests progress in closing the education gap for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit populations, at least for graduating high school. More than half of Inuit had a high school diploma in 2021, compared with 45.4 per cent five years ago. The gap continues to grow the higher the level of education for all Indigenous.

Read More Local Stories