GUEST COLUMN: Allow colleges to offer three-year degrees

Young people in Sarnia-Lambton face a new reality about their future careers.

The skills mismatch has been dominating local headlines lately, reminding us that we face a future of “people without jobs” and “jobs without people.” Too often, there is a divide between the skills and credentials held by young people entering the workforce and the qualifications sought by employers.

Higher education must be transformed so that graduate qualifications are better aligned with the demands of our economy. Our community must put more emphasis on ensuring that young people find career success at home and across the country after they graduate.

The career-specific programs and hands-on learning provided at Lambton College help to produce the highly skilled workforce that is needed in our area. In order to continue to do this, the province must implement reforms to encourage more students to pursue college programs, including combinations of both college and university education.

One of the most essential steps to help produce more college graduates could happen if the Ontario government would allow colleges to offer three-year degrees.

Some colleges already offer four-year degrees and they are successful. Currently, colleges must award diplomas to graduates of three-year programs.  Allowing colleges to offer three-year degrees would elevate Ontario’s post-secondary system to international standards, since most of the world grants degrees in similar three-year post-secondary programs.

It would also give appropriate recognition to graduates. The reality is that many of Lambton College’s three-year programs already meet the provincial standards for baccalaureate education. Our graduates deserve to earn credentials that properly recognize their achievements and give them the best opportunity possible to compete in the national job market.

Enrolment at Ontario’s colleges is at its highest level ever, and the number of university graduates enrolled in colleges has increased more than 40 per cent over five years.

The government must put more emphasis on career-focused programs. Expanding the range of degree programs at Lambton College and across the province would encourage more students to pursue career-focused post-secondary education and help produce a stronger workforce. If approved, Lambton College is poised to offer a number of job-focused three-year degrees that will well serve the needs of our students and community.

Judith Morris is the President & CEO of Lambton College